Another tuition raise at UA may hurt affordability

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In the current standing of the state’s financial crisis, higher education in Alaska has taken another economic toll.

Budget reductions, department cuts and program eliminations are just some of the challenges that have impacted the University of Alaska this year. A five percent tuition increase has been confirmed for next fall, and a potential additional raise in the spring of the 2017-18 academic year.

As far as a mid-year tuition increase, UA administration will do their best to “keep the increase in the five to ten percent range,” according to UA President Jim Johnsen.

A five to ten percent tuition raise translates to about a $400 to $800 increase per year for a full-time student.

“If we do not get the funding we need from the state, our ability to meet the high standards that students deserve will require additional revenue. We are working to increase private giving to UA, and if our budget from the state falls short, we’ll need to step up tuition as well,” Johnsen said. “Today, our tuition is 19 percent under the western states’ average, so even after a tuition hike, our tuition will still be very affordable for our students.”

Since 2015, Alaska’s state allocation has been cut nearly $50 million. In response, UA has looked for increased revenues from many sources, including tuition. Johnsen stated that a mid-year increase for academic year 2016-17 was controversial, so he set that option aside for 2017-18.

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Stacey Lucason, student member of the UA Board of Regents noted that there has been tuition raises every year since being at UAA, and that she believes that it may be a pattern with inflation in the state.

Lucason said that the potential mid-year tuition raise will “likely” be discussed at the next Board of Regents meeting.

Next year’s five percent tuition hike will follow several years of tuition raises, most recently, a five percent raise for the 2016-17 academic year. Johnsen noted that with a reasonable budget from the Alaska legislature, that future tuition increases should not exceed ten percent.

After an already confirmed tuition raise for the fall semester, some students worry what an additional mid-year increase will mean for their education.

Bria Anderson, a junior dental hygiene major, admitted that she is concerned how future tuition hikes will affect her future at UAA.

“I find it discouraging that every year I am having to pay more and more to go to my state’s college. I already have to take out student loans to attend UAA, and consistent tuition raises make my situation more difficult,” Anderson said.

According to the College Board, the average cost for tuition for the 2016–2017 school year was $10,510 at private colleges, $8,340 for state residents at public colleges. The national average yearly tuition raise is just a little over three percent per year.

UA reported it’s full-time undergraduate tuition rate at $6,360, slightly more affordable than most out of state institutions.

Whether there will be a mid-year tuition increase in addition to the five percent for the 2017-18 academic year, will be determined in the near future by UA administration, Johnsen and the Board of Regents.