Budget update on tuition: Oct. 20, 2021

Oct. 20, 2021

— by Dan White, chancellor

The Board of Regents will hold a full board meeting next month, Nov. 11 and 12. The Academic and Student Affairs, Facilities and Land Management, and Audit and Finance committees will meet the week prior, Nov. 4 and 5. One topic that will be discussed is UA’s tuition proposal for the academic year 2022-2023 (effective fall 2022). The UA proposal will include our effort to further differentiate tuition at UAF. 

On Tuesday, Oct. 26, at noon, I will host a Zoom forum on UAF’s proposed new tuition structure. After you register, you will receive a confirmation email with information about joining the meeting. I ask that you submit questions and provide feedback on the proposed model for differentiated tuition in advance to help us ensure we are addressing your questions. 

Following are a few questions and answers regarding the UAF proposal.

Why differentiate tuition?
The University of Alaska’s tuition rates (lower-division, upper-division, graduate) have historically applied to all three universities and the embedded community colleges. This structure is not common in systems across the country. The University of Wisconsin, for example, has a different rate for its research university, its urban comprehensive and its community colleges.

Having a common tuition across the UA system has resulted in our community college (CC) tuition to be very high relative to CC peers. At the same time, our baccalaureate tuition is relatively low compared to our research university peers. Common tuition has also led to a bifurcated baccalaureate tuition rate that is not considered best practice across the country. We seek adjustments to this approach in order to best meet our students where they are, provide financial aid where needed, and enable access to education for all those who seek it.

Is this new? 
UAF has been taking a more data-informed approach to tuition strategy as an outcome of the Strategic Enrollment Planning work done over the past several years. The BoR approved a first step to differentiate tuition for UAF last year. Effective fall 2021, UAF’s tuition increased at the upper-division and graduate tuition levels relative to UAA and UAS. The first year of UAF’s differentiated tuition demonstrated that our strategy of raising tuition at the research university, coupled with expanding our financial aid offerings, has maintained or increased enrollment including during the pandemic. Undergraduate headcount was roughly flat from fall 2020 to fall 2021, and graduate student headcount increased by 2.1% over the same period.  

What is this year’s proposal?
UAF is currently working with the UA system office leadership on a proposal for the academic year 2022-2023 (starting fall 2022). There are two different models being considered, and, while it’s not final, our leading model is to hold the current lower-division rate being charged for all CTC and most CRCD community college courses flat. This would be designated as the community campus rate. This important step separates CTC and CRCD community campus tuition rates from those of the research university, keeping them affordable, and ensuring accessibility for students interested in UAF’s wide variety of associate degree, certificate and occupational endorsement offerings. This also maintains parity with UAA and UAS at this level. 

For Troth Yeddha’, the UAF research campus, baccalaureate lower-division tuition would increase from $234 to $260 (or $26 per credit) as part of a two-year transition to a single undergraduate rate. Upper-division, graduate and nonresident rates would remain flat. After the two-year transition, the Troth Yeddha’ rate structure would include an undergraduate, graduate and nonresident rate, phasing out separate rates for lower- or upper-division undergraduate offerings. This helps improve and simplify communications to students who are interested in UAF’s total cost of attendance and financial aid options.

How will this impact students?
UAF is committed to a tuition model change with an increase in student financial aid (packaged strategically for distinct student markets), and with broad communication to ensure that the value of a UAF education is well-understood. This strategy is informed by Ruffalo Noel Levitz, UAF’s strategic enrollment planning consultants. The structural change proposed is also reflective of a best practice: to offer one tuition rate for undergraduate tuition at the research university, and a separate, decoupled rate for community campuses (predominantly offering only lower-division courses) at a lower price. Increasing student financial aid with new programs like the Nanook Pledge and Nanook Commitment are already making a difference for students as part of promoting UAF’s high-quality educational options at different price points, making each of these options affordable for students.

How will this impact academic schools, colleges and campuses?
UAF is in a global education market. Many options are already available to students at different price points in the market today for higher education. UAF is committed to working with our colleges and departments during the transition period to minimize revenue impacts. 

I look forward to your feedback and participation at the tuition forum Oct. 26.

Thanks for choosing UAF.