Jim Johnsen proposes five percent tuition increase for the University of Alaska

After a year filled with budget reductions and financial adjustments heavily impacting the University of Alaska, it looks like the fiscal changes will be continuing next year. UA president Jim Johnsen proposed yet another five percent tuition increase for the 2017-2018 academic year, and as of Nov. 12, has been approved.

The State of Alaska is facing economic strains that negatively impact UA’s budget. This has resulted in a previous tuition hike, facility closes and program cuts. Countless students, staff and faculty a part of the UA system have been distressed over the redundant changes throughout the university.

The state’s quota has been cut from $375 million to $325 million since 2015. These reductions directly affect state-funded systems like the University of Alaska, which lead to the fiscal changes UA is experiencing. An increase in tuition would help UA profit revenue and achieve the university’s mission in being the state’s primary provider of higher education.

Johnsen sent out a memorandum to the Board of Regents, Coalition of Student Leaders and System Governance Council on Oct. 28, before proposing the tuition raise and being authorized by the Board of Regents Thursday, Nov. 12.

“In April, when our budget outlook was particularly grim, I was prepared to request the Regents amend AY2017’s already approved tuition rates to help offset the general fund shortfall. However, our general fund allocation was raised from $300 million to $325 million, making the tuition adjustment less urgent. I also heard from students and families that introducing a mid-year tuition increase would be a hardship. So, I put that option aside for academic year 2017,” Johnsen wrote in his memorandum.

Johnsen is optimistic in his appeal to continue a yearly tuition raise — and benefit the University of Alaska in the process.

“With the possibility that state support will decrease yet again in 2018, I will propose a modest tuition increase of 5 percent for all rates of tuition in the academic year of 2018 at the November Board of Regents meeting. This level of increase keeps UA’s tuition below the average published in-state tuition and fee prices at public master’s and public doctoral universities, thus ensuring affordability and access for our students,” Johnsen wrote.

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Reactions to Johnsen’s said proposal have been mixed, and on top of previous changes that have happened at the institution, it has raised question.

Anna Berecz, a graduate student and assistant coach for the UAA ski team feels that another tuition raise could impede students from furthering their education.

“I know that the institution is supposed to attract new students, and I firmly believe that higher education is one thing that they should always keep low cost because that’s one of the most important things for our society to progress,” Berecz said.

Although some students and faculty do not support the planned tuition increase, Johnsen believes it is a reasonable amount to request.

Sebastian Garrett-Singh, a student in the UAA Department of Journalism and Communications also feels that another five percent tuition raise could very easily affect student turnout at the universities.

“Any tuition increase is deeply concerning, but I understand the UA system is in a precarious fiscal situation and solutions to closing the financial gap will almost never be perceived positively,” Garrett-Singh said. “While five percent isn’t going to make or break my educational experience, the increase will certainly impact my annual budgeting. As a student taking on loans it means my debt will be that much bigger come graduation. I’m more worried tuition increases will continue unabated, and future college students may lose a chance at a higher education because the cost of admission is simply too high.”

The state’s budget crisis is in full effect and will remain to impact the University of Alaska, and it’s allocation until the system has recovered revenue that has been forfeited. President Jim Johnsen along with the Board of Regents are evaluating the figures and fiscal options required to get UA’s budget back on track.