UA Board of Regents puts off vote on tuition increase

Student Advocacy representative Audrey Kirby speaks at the Board of Regents meeting.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - At a regularly-scheduled meeting, the University of Alaska Board of Regents voted to delay a vote to raise student tuition after hearing from students at the beginning of the meeting.

"You may not like the increase, but I think it's important to understand the increase," said Regent Karen Perdue when introducing a resolution to delay the vote.

The proposal by the University of Alaska President Jim Johnsen would go into effect for the 2020-21 academic year and would increase tuition 5% for both higher-level and lower-level credits. Johnsen said that would help make up for the $25 million cut to the university system agreed upon by the university and Gov. Dunleavy after the governor originally proposed much more draconian cuts.

But regents weren't ready to pull the trigger on higher rates just yet.

Discussion on whether to delay focused on the question of how long they could put it off before the individual universities had to publish student costs in their catalogs. The answer was February, when budgets are finalized and catalogs printed for the three universities, which made a delay of another two months feasible until a scheduled Jan. 17 Board of Regents meeting.

According to numbers presented by President Johnsen, student tuition currently makes up about 28% of the university's budget, several percentage points below peer institutions. Students in the University of Alaska system also pay several hundred dollars less than peer institutions - $10,716 for in-state tuition at UAA for this academic year.

The rise in tuition would put students roughly on the hook for a fifth of the $25 million budget reduction made by the governor.

But despite the delay, a tuition hike is something that may very well still happen because of the need for increased revenue.

A 5% rise could make up up to $7 million in revenue, enough for approximately 70 staff positions.

Audrey Kirby, a student advocacy representative for UAF, complained that university leadership hadn't been forthright about how the tuition increases would be instituted.

"We don't know where the tuition revenue is going to and we got no justification as to why tuition is being increased," she said at the meeting.

While regents found consensus on the issue, there was some criticism.

"The board is an expert at putting things off instead of taking action," said Regent John Bania. Still, he eventually voted in favor of the delay.

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