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SALT LAKE CITY — Starting with the 2019-20 academic year, the Utah State Board of Regents will set tuition rates specific to each of the state's eight public colleges and universities.
Previously, the regents set an across-the-board percentage increase that applied to all colleges. Their policy also allowed the colleges and universities to seek second-tier increases for specific institutional needs.
Under a newly adopted policy change, second-tier tuitions will be discontinued.
Regents Chairman Harris Simmons said the new policy "will help provide the board with a robust tuition-setting process moving forward, which will be more transparent and will allow for greater public input."
The board's action comes on the heels of a recent legislative audit that found the board of regents has not adequately controlled tuition increases at state institutions.
The performance review conducted by the Office of the Utah Legislative Auditor General says tuition has increased by nearly $132 million over the past five years.
"While those increases may have been justified … the (higher education) commissioner's staff could not produce any independent validation of the institutions' tuition requests," the audit states.
The audit went on to describe the board's review of proposed increases as "superficial."
Regent Thomas Wright, who formerly served on the Dixie State University board of trustees, said the policy change reflects the process institutional trustees and college administrators use to develop tuition recommendations.
"The trustees have played an active role, the institutions have played an active role. It’s just the uniform part of it that’s given us all heartburn because one size doesn’t necessarily fit all. This is definitely better for the students, I think because it’s going to allow us to look at it institution by institution," Wright said.
While the policy changes address many issues raised by the audit, Wright said the update "was in the works prior to the audit. It’s not a reaction to the audit. I think that’s important to know for our own peace of mind that this has been thought out for an extended period of time."
However, he acknowledged that the audit helped staff and regents refine the policy changes.
According to the policy, a college or university president who wants to adjust their institution’s tuition rate must submit a formal proposal to the board that details the increase in terms of a percentage increase and projected revenue raised.
The institution must also provide a detailed list of how it plans to use the additional revenue, why the change is necessary and the anticipated impact of the tuition change on student access, retention and completion rates.
The colleges and universities must document that the tuition adjustment is supported by their respective trustee boards and report how students were advised of proposed tuition rates through student leadership councils or truth in tuition hearings.