OGDEN -- The Weber State University Board of Trustees on Tuesday approved tuition increases totaling 6 percent, plus a 3 percent increase in student fees, effective in May.
If the proposal is approved by the Utah State Board of Regents, as expected, full-time WSU Utah-resident students will pay an extra $236 in tuition and fees for the combined fall and spring semesters in the 2011-12 school year.
Full-time WSU nonresident students will pay an extra $732 for the same two-semester period.
A load of 11 to 18 credits is considered full time.
"We try to be careful, keeping tuition as low as possible," said WSU President F. Ann Millner.
"Eighty percent of our students work, and tuition increases are difficult. We work to provide a quality educational experience for them, being as careful as we can with tuition increases."
The Utah State Board of Regents has recommended a tuition increase at state universities of 5 percent, which is a likely increase in tuition at all of the campuses. That's considered a Tier One increase.
The Weber State trustees approved that 5 percent, plus a Tier Two increase of 1 percent, for a 6 percent total increase.
The University of Utah is considering the 5 percent Tier One increase, plus a Tier Two increase of 2 to 4 percent, for a total increase of 7 to 9 percent. The U of U Board of Trustees has not yet voted on the proposal.
Other Utah schools have not yet announced specific tuition increase plans.
Weber State history major Edwin Stafford, of Ogden, said an added $236 for next year is going to hurt.
"For me, it could be a hardship," said Stafford, 27. "I'm on disability, so money is already tight. But on the flip side, I don't see that they have much choice in the matter if the Legislature keeps cutting into our program. They're cutting muscle, not fat."
Cynthia Balzomo, also an Ogden native and a WSU history major, said middle-class students are the most hurt by tuition and fee increases.
"If you're in the middle class, you don't qualify for a lot of grants or financial help other people could qualify for," said Balzomo, 39.
"If you make too much money to get help, but not enough to pay for an increase, you get caught in the middle. And if you are working, even at a low-paying job, you may not have the grades to qualify for a scholarship."
Millner said Weber State has made every effort to tighten its belt responsibly.
"Weber has been very careful about replacing positions when people leave, and making additional commitments. We have been holding steady. Our goal has been to not make cuts."
But enrollment is up by 30 percent over the past three years, Millner said. The trend over WSU's entire history has been that hard economic times draw more students.
"It's countercyclical to the economy," Millner said. "When the economy is strong, we see a decrease in enrollment, but when the economy is weak, enrollment is up. People want to gain new skills to make sure they are marketable in a tight economy and able to compete for positions in a more competitive job market."
Millner said the tuition increases will help make up for the legislative budget cuts and will help fund updating some technology, such as computer software.
A few faculty positions may be added in areas that support the increase in students, she said.
"We have areas where we need to add courses to meet the demands of increased enrollment," Millner said, adding that no final decisions have been made in the matter.
Stafford is worried by WSU's shrinking faculty.
"Whenever a teacher leaves, their field of expertise is gone," he said. "I think we are at a vital point and can't afford to lose any more."
Millner said the modest tuition increase will help keep Weber State University strong into the future.
"Access to a quality education at Weber State is still a great value when you compare our tuition and fees to other institutions across the state and across the country," she said.
"We've tried very hard to provide quality education at an affordable price. We know it is a challenge for our students when we have to increase tuition, and we are careful to keep tuition increases as low as possible."