Tuition to climb

Tuition may rise an additional 17 percent over the next two years.

A 10 percent tuition hike has already been planned for academic years 2006 and 2007.

In an April 12, 2005 notice, UA President Mark Hamilton announced his plan to increase tuition by 7 percent in the 2008 academic year.

“The proposed tuition adjustment for AY2007 is the final increase in my often stated goal of raising tuition a minimum of 10 percent each year for four years,” Hamilton said in the notice. “The proposed tuition increase of 7 percent in AY2008 is needed to cover the continued rise in costs throughout the university system.”

For the purpose of maximizing revenue opportunities, Hamilton also proposed to eliminate senior citizen tuition waivers effective fall 2006.

University of Alaska students at every campus have seen tuition rates rise 10 percent each year for the past three years under Hamilton’s plan. If the proposed increases are implemented, the cost of tuition will have risen 47 percent over five years.

“I’m not happy,” USUAA president Anthony Rivas said. “I don’t want to pay more tuition. When is it going to stop?”

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By raising tuition over and over again, it seems like the university wants progress at whatever cost, Rivas said.

“What we’re doing now is pricing school above certain people,” Rivas said. “The whole appeal of UAA, the whole thing that keeps people going to UAA, is that it is low priced. People who go to UAA from Alaska are there because it’s cheaper than going out of state.”

Students might choose outside colleges over UAA, UAF or UAS if tuition continues to rise at these rates, Rivas said.

Kate Ripley, director of public affairs for the UA system, said she doesn’t foresee that being a problem.

“We’re still less expensive than a lot of our peers in the Lower 48,” Ripley said.

In the last academic year, UAA tuition was 82 percent cheaper than its peers.

“In the past five years with university tuition increasing 30 percent, two-thirds [of universities] have increased tuition by higher rates,” she said. “Most have increased their tuition by higher rates than us – by up to 50 percent.”

Ripley said the 7 percent increase takes into account some inflation factoring and a little room for growth. The main reason for the tuition hikes is to raise UA to a level that is more competitive with similar institutions.

“We have bargain basement prices compared to our peers in the Lower 48,” Ripley said. “We’re trying to diversify our revenue at the university and to reduce our reliance on state general funds.”

But Rivas said he isn’t convinced the rising costs are justified.

“We’re systematically going up. It’s not just tuition,” he said. “If it were just the 10 percent tuition increase, I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with it. But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.”

The cost of on-campus housing has gone up dramatically in the last five years and student fees are rising as well, Rivas said.

“I think that they want to get themselves to be as expensive as the other schools so they can be at the same tier,” Rivas said.

Ripley said the university knows tuition increases are tough on students, and the issues will be open for public input and testimony during the September board meeting.

The meeting will be held to discuss the tuition increases and the elimination of senior tuition waivers in the Lyla Richards Conference Room, Sept. 15 at 5 p.m. Students and members of the public are welcome to attend.