Get the Skinny on UA Tuition

You may have heard or read about tuition increases being proposed by the University of Alaska. Some news stories have been accurate; some haven’t been. Here’s the scoop:

If the two-pronged proposal is approved by the Board of Regents in September 2010, it would affect the 2011-2012 school year (Fall 2011 – Spring 2012) for 100 and 200 level courses only; and all levels except graduate for the 2012-2013 (Fall 2012 – Spring 2013) school year.

The dollar amount for the 2011-2012 proposal would result in an $8 per credit increase from previously approved levels for 100 and 200 courses only.

For the 2012-2013 school year, tuition would increase under one of these scenarios (not both):

  • At 10 percent: a $16 per credit increase for lower division/$19 per credit increase upper division;
  • At 12 percent: a $19 per credit increase for lower division/$22 per credit increase for upper division.

UA’s tuition rate is on the low end compared to Western states and the rest of the nation.  

Nine of the 15 Western states in the WICHE region have higher tuition at their public universities than Alaska. Nationally, UA tuition is the 44th lowest of all 50 states.

Tuition revenue makes up only 11 percent of UA’s overall budget. The costs of instruction already are subsidized heavily by other sources, and will continue to be so under these proposals.

So, why does the university need to raise tuition revenue? It comes down to prudent fiscal management. While the university has received an increase in state general fund dollars in recent years, this level of state funding hasn’t kept pace with real day-to-day costs, despite aggressive cost containment measures and reallocations. It also hasn’t kept pace with costly workforce programs for students in high-demand job areas.

New programs for students in recent years have been among the most expensive. This is because they’re mostly in highly technical and skilled fields that are expensive to deliver, such as allied health programs, including radiation technology, dental assisting, nursing, process industry technologies (oil/gas/mining), and other high-demand workforce fields.

But this doesn’t mean the university only concerns itself with the revenue side of the balance sheet. The expense side is just as important.

The president and chancellors constantly work to seek program and administrative efficiencies and cost savings while minimizing impacts to programs and students. Some examples include:

  • UA Choice health care: Plan costs continue to rise, so UA has begun to trim back on services while asking employees to pay more.
  • Caps on pensions were put into place years ago, saving $3.2 million annually compared to the state’s SBS. (SBS is $6,700 per person/UA pension cap is $3,200)
  • UA’s per diem is the lowest in state government ($44/day).
  • Aggressive negotiation for lower vendor rates for health care and pharmacy benefits, preferred health care providers, expanded disease management and a three-year vesting requirement under the university’s Optional Retirement Program resulted in an $11million cost avoidance last year alone.
  • Travel costs at the System office were reduced by 37 percent in FY09.
  • Reallocations to high priority areas.

So why do some students have a difficult time paying for college? Tuition in Alaska is relatively low, but unfortunately, so is the amount of financial aid available. Many others states have robust financial aid programs, making postsecondary education and training affordable. Sadly, that hasn’t been the case in Alaska. Fortunately the governor and legislature understand this, and financial aid has received more attention this past legislative session than in many years. UA leaders will continue to support increased need- and merit-based aid in Alaska.

If you have questions about UA’s tuition proposal, call Saichi Oba, associate vice president for student and enrollment services, at 907-450-8146. Or email him at stoba@alaska.edu.

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