Utah Tuition Costs Have Risen 214% Over the Last 20 Years

Over the last 20 years, state funding increases for Utah’s colleges and universities has basically kept pace with the Consumer Price Index.

In other words, public colleges taxpayer state funding has kept pace with inflation – or overall price increases of 44.3 percent.

But over that same period, tuition increases for full-time students went up 214 percent; state legislative leaders were told Tuesday afternoon.

Of course, anyone who went to a Utah college years ago and now has had to pay for their own children’s tuition instinctively knows this.

But the Executive Appropriations Committee members were still a bit dismayed to see such comparisons.

Higher education boss Dave Buhler, a former GOP state senator himself (he sat on EAC for two years) told UtahPolicy that every day his office and the appointed State Board of Regents (the overseeing body for Utah’s colleges and universities) struggle over tuition hikes, and fight to keep them down.

Buhler said a two- and four-year college degree in Utah is “still a good buy.”

“We have the fourth lowest tuitions in the nation” among public institutions of higher learning, said Buhler.

And Utah ranks fifth in the nation in the lowest cost to taxpayers for a public college system.

“We are concerned about cost (to students) in everything we do; every day we work to keep costs in line,” he added

Still, about 60 percent of full-time Utah college students have some kind of student loan – even though as a group Utah’s college students carry the lowest student loan balances among all the states.

State taxpayers are, by and large, doing their part, GOP and Democratic leaders of both houses were told.

In the basic cost of teaching a college course, the state pays 98 percent of that bill.

Tuition money goes for all other kinds of college expenses, from libraries on down, as student fees pay for many extra-curricular costs, like student athletics.

Some basic numbers:

— In the 17 years from 1999 to 2016, state funding for higher education went from $488 million to $851 million, nearly doubling.

— In addition, legislators have provided $1.9 billion worth of new buildings and improvements to current buildings. By far, most of the buildings the state owns and operates sit on college and university campuses.

— Over the same period, the number of full-time students has increased from 83,300 to 117,161 per year or an increase of 41 percent.

— The revenue from tuitions has gone from $165 million a year to $718 million a year, as the number of students increases, as does tuition itself.

— So, the tuition cost per full-time student has gone from $1,891 to $5,941 per year.

That is an overall average increase of 214 percent. (Smaller colleges, of course, have lower tuition than do the big schools, University of Utah and Utah State University.)

You can read the whole Higher Education Funding report here.