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UW Trustees Adopt Tuition Policy, Increase for 2015-16

November 14, 2014

The University of Wyoming Board of Trustees voted today (Friday) to raise student tuition by 5 percent in the 2015-16 academic year, with 80 percent of the revenues generated by the increase going to faculty and staff compensation.

Additionally, trustees adopted a policy calling for ongoing tuition increases of 4 percent annually, subject to modification by the board each year, as a way to provide predictability for students while meeting anticipated cost increases to maintain and enhance UW’s quality of education.

Even with those increases, UW’s tuition for resident undergraduates is expected to remain the lowest among the nation’s 173 public doctoral degree-granting institutions, meeting the Wyoming constitutional mandate that UW tuition remain “as nearly free as possible” for residents. Nonresident tuition should remain among the lowest.

“Raising tuition is never an easy decision, but this tuition policy will provide students and families with information to assist in their financial planning while helping the university meet its most pressing needs,” Board of Trustees President Dave Palmerlee says. “Revenue from tuition increases should always be expended in ways that directly affect the quality of education for UW students, and that’s exactly what the new policy calls for.”

The 5 percent tuition increase approved for 2015-16 amounts to $90 per semester for full-time resident undergraduate students and $165 for nonresident undergraduates. The increase is higher than the annual 4 percent hike envisioned by the long-term tuition policy because the need to address faculty and staff salaries is so serious, trustees say.

Despite state funding for compensation increases, pay levels for UW faculty and staff remain well below market levels, and it will take a succession of annual increases for UW to begin to catch up.

The 5 percent tuition increase is estimated to generate about $2.5 million. Of that amount, $2 million will be devoted to employee salaries. The remaining $500,000 will be available to the Office of Academic Affairs to address a host of academic support and programmatic issues.

The $2 million in tuition revenues for salaries will be combined with a $4.2 million state appropriation for a total of about $6.2 million to address UW compensation issues in the next fiscal year. Of this amount, $4.8 million will be distributed to faculty and staff through a process approved before July 1, 2015, by the Board of Trustees. The balance will be distributed as follows: an estimated $425,000 to cover mandatory raises for promoted faculty members; $600,000 to retain faculty and staff members; and $275,000 to recruit and retain other staff members.

“Retaining and hiring excellent faculty and staff members is essential for UW to provide the best possible education for its students,” UW President Dick McGinity says. “It’s entirely appropriate that tuition revenues from students be used for this important purpose.”

Employee salaries remain the top priority in UW’s new long-term tuition policy, but the plan provides for expenditures on other items as well. Of the total 4 percent annual increase envisioned beginning in 2016-17, half (about $1 million) would go to compensation, with the rest divided among academic unit support budgets ($500,000), libraries ($250,000) and information technology ($250,000).

UW officials emphasize that the long-term tuition policy will serve only as a guide in preparing annual administrative recommendations for the trustees. The board will retain the authority to “take any action it determines regarding tuition rates and the distribution of revenue generated from modifications to tuition,” according to the policy.

Under the policy, UW’s administration will continue to provide annual updates on UW’s cost of attendance, and how the university’s tuition and fee rates compare with other institutions. In addition, the administration will consult with students, faculty and staff before submitting tuition recommendations.

UW’s new long-term tuition policy calling for modest annual increases is in line with the approach taken by Wyoming’s community colleges in recent years. It will be reviewed at least every four years.

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