Students signing up for summer semester at Utah Valley University register for classes in February. It wouldn’t be until a month later, however, that the university would finalize tuition increases.
“Every year we increase tuition for summer semester,” Linda Makin, UVU vice president of planning and budget, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “As we dug into that, we realized that students enroll in February, but they don’t know what their tuition will be when they enroll. The way legislative and budgeting timelines work, we aren’t able to establish our tuition rates until the last week of March every year.”
Makin explained that the most common view of the academic year is that it begins in fall and then proceeds through the spring and summer semesters.
“We realized our tuition runs summer-fall-spring, so we asked if there was something we could do to change that up,” Makin said. “That way when students registered for summer classes, they would know what their tuition was going to be. That would be a positive change for our students because they would know that fall, spring and summer they would pay the same tuition.”
UVU came up with a proposal that would postpone the 1.38% tuition increase for 2020 from going into effect until the fall semester, thus bringing it in line with the traditional school year.
“It is all about being transparent, and creating a system that will remove barriers for students at every stage of their journey toward graduation,” UVU president Astrid Tuminez said in a press release. “We want our students focusing on their education and success, not on process.”
Makin said the proposal received enthusiastic support from both the trustees and students.
“In our Truth in Tuition hearing on March 5, we always talk about the possibility of a tuition increase and what we are thinking,” Makin said. “After we had gone through that process, we presented the proposal. There was applause for this. There were comments made by the students about how appreciative they were that the administration was considering these things on their behalf.”
The final step was Tuminez giving a presentation to the Utah System of Higher Education Board of Regents, where the proposal was expected to be approved on Thursday.
Since the summer semester has the fewest students enrolled — and most are continuing students — the adjustment will help students progress to graduation more effectively while also not having a substantial budgetary impact.
“This is a little bit of a change just for this semester,” Makin said. “We are just delaying the increase by one semester. This is one of our smallest increases, so doing it right now is also financially smart.”
She added that given the current closure of campus and the reliance on online instruction as part of efforts to limit the spread of COVID-19 also make this a good time to postpone the small tuition increase.
“This is probably the best time do it,” Makin said. “Enrollment and this environment are related financially but that is a different issue. This is something that still seems like it is the right thing to do — maybe now more than ever.”
Makin suspects that the original timeline for the tuition increase was likely set up in the 1990s when Utah was still on a quarter system.
“If you approved a change on April 1, summer semester didn’t start until June,” Makin said. “Now that we have moved to semesters, it created this awkwardness.”
She said the discrepancy was brought to light and evaluated as part of a long-term process to make the education process at UVU more effective.
“We started working last summer on our Vision 2030 plan,” Makin said. “As part of that plan, one of the main principles is to try to remove barriers to student completion. We wanted to identify all of the ways we can to help make the processes of attending university simplified, more streamlined and more understandable.”