FAIRBANKS - Tuition at the University of Alaska would increase by up to $38 a credit hour under a proposal from university administrators.
The plan, to be introduced to the university Board of Regents at its meeting this week, proposes increasing undergraduate and graduate tuition 10 percent during the 2003-2004 school year and another 10 percent the following year.
If approved by the board at its November meeting, it would be the largest tuition hike in more than a decade, UA spokesman Bob Miller told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner.
"It's been since the late '80s that there's been that significant of a tuition increase," Miller said. "It's just generally, since then, been at the rate of inflation."
An Alaska resident undergraduate student taking 15 credit hours this year would pay between $1,230 and $1,395 per semester in tuition. Under the proposed increases, that would rise to between $1,485 and $1,680 at the end of two years.
For graduate students taking nine credits, resident tuition would go from $1,656 per semester this year to $1,998 during the 2004-2005 school year.
The proposed increase is necessary to help the university pay for new programs introduced in recent years, as well as increased student services such as online registration and fee payment, said Pat Pitney, the university's director of budget and institutional research.
"It's to help support the value added over the last few years and to continue that momentum," she said. "The university has held tuition at an inflation increase for the last eight years."
Those inflation increases go to fund the university's increasing fixed costs, Pitney said. They are not enough, even with increased enrollment, to cover the costs of more students and new programs, she said.
"There is a true cost associated with additional students," Pitney said. "Tuition covers less than half of the direct instructional costs. Overall tuition is 11 percent of total revenues."
The increase would be "a huge deal," for students, said Derek Miller, spokesman for the Coalition of Student Leaders and president of the Associated Students of the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Students' willingness to support the change will likely hinge on what the money will pay for, Miller said.
"I don't think the students are going to go for a tuition increase that is not going to go toward something that is going to benefit them," Miller said.
The coalition will meet this week in Anchorage and discuss the proposal, he said.
The increase would generate about $8 million the first year, Pitney said, and about the same amount the year after. Along with the 23 new programs the university has added in recent years, the increase will help pay for improved student services, said Mike Sfraga, associate vice president for student services and enrollment management.
"We have built a full complement of online services for our students," he said. "Plus we developed a distance-education gateway." The latter allows students statewide to access distance-delivery courses at any campus.
A tuition increase would force students to make some financial choices, said Don Scheaffer, director of financial aid at UAF.
Many scholarships and grants have fixed dollar amounts, so students will have to make up the difference out of their pockets or with student loans, he said.
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