Friday, Jan. 23, 2004 | 11:10 a.m.
The university system Board of Regents will hear a proposal next week to raise college tuition by up to 10.1 percent a year.
The increases, if approved, would go into effect in fall 2005 and again in fall 2006. Regents voted last year to provide for regular increases in tuition to meet costs so that University and Community College System of Nevada students would not be hit with a double-digit jump in any one year.
Under the proposal, community college students would pay 3.6 percent more in 2005 for lower-division classes and 6.4 percent more for upper-division classes. University undergraduates would be hit with a 7.7 percent increase, and graduate students would see the largest increase -- 10.1 percent.
Regents are not scheduled to vote on the increases until March, but tuition increases are likely and that has some students wondering how they will come up with the money.
"I don't understand why they have to raise it by such a large margin," said Drita Ramadanovic, a 24-year-old international business sophomore at University of Nevada, Las Vegas. "Seven percent isn't a small number."
"Most UNLV students have to work full time to be able to afford college," Ramadanovic said. "It's counter-productive to raise tuition, because then people have to drop classes and work more hours to support it.
"(The regents) need to be more creative in how they fund things."
Ramadanovic was just one of many UNLV students who scowled when told of the possible tuition increase. One freshman even used expletives to describe his displeasure.
Major increases in room, board and health fee costs effective this past fall raised the cost for UNLV students who live on campus by about $820 a semester. Tuition also went up 9 percent.
Some regents said they are no happier with the possibility of additional tuition increases and will review the proposal carefully.
"In general, I don't like raising fees at all, especially when fees at colleges are going up greater than the cost of living," Regent Doug Seastrand said. "That always gives us concern."
Seastrand and fellow Regent Steve Sisolak said Chancellor Jane Nichols will have to justify the increases.
"I'm the first one who wants to avoid raising tuition but the costs of education are going up, professor salaries are going up," Sisolak said. "We've got to have a tuition increase that is commensurate with our increase in costs, as long as we do everything to keep costs down."
Nichols said board policy mandates that tuition at Nevada colleges slowly increase to meet the median tuition for colleges set in 2002 by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education, which includes 15 states. Even with the increases, Nichols said, UNLV has the lowest tuition for a graduate research university in the nation and the second lowest tuition for undergraduate programs. In 2002, Nevada tuition was only higher than California's state schools, and that state raised its tuition by 30 percent in 2003.
Only non-resident tuition is set to cover the actual costs of providing a college education to the students who pay the tuition, Nichols said. Nevada residents are only asked to pay a percentage of the cost of their education based on how much the legislature gives for higher education. Right now resident students pay only 22 percent of the cost of their education, Nichols said.
And the proposed increases, by education level, are designed to keep community college as accessible as possible, Nichols said.
"These increases certainly appear large by percentage and to our students, and we are concerned with having to increasing them, but given our (fiscal) climate we have to," Nichols said.
Sisolak said there are many issues to look at when considering a tuition hike, including whether the budget itself can be trimmed or how much money the regents expect to get from future legislatures.
Sisolak did, however, agree with the different rates for the different schools, because professors at the upper-division and graduate level have more education and generally are paid more instructors of lower-division classes.
Regent Mark Alden, who said he completely opposed tuition increases for undergraduates, agreed with Sisolak that increases are necessary for the three graduate schools in medicine, law and dental because of the higher operational costs.
The proposed 7.7 percent increase for university students means per-credit tuition will jump from $85 to $91.50 in fall 2005, or about $100 a semester for a full-time student taking 15 units. In 2006 the rate will jump to about $98 per credit, or another $97.50 for 15 units.
Nonresident students will see a hike of 4.8 percent at the community colleges and 9.1 percent at Nevada's universities.
The proposal does set aside 50 percent of the increases for need-based financial aid to offset the impact on low-income students. About $3 per credit hour will go toward need-based scholarships, Nichols said.
But students at UNLV think the increases would hurt students who do not have scholarships and may hurt Millennium Scholarship students, who do not receive enough money to cover the increases.
"Those not on Millennium Scholarships will be hurt the most, but even students on scholarships might be affected," John MacAvoy, 19, a freshman civil engineering major, said.
To fellow freshman Killian Wells, an 18-year-old accounting major, it sounds like the regents "are trying to make it hard to go to college. They don't want us to succeed anymore."