Funding for Utah colleges and universities shifted more than 13 percent from state appropriations to higher tuition during recession years. Tuition increases ranged from 5 percent to 10 percent during those years.
While tuition is higher at all Utah colleges and universities, the workhorse institutions have been disproportionately hard-hit. Across the country, junior colleges are funded about 70 percent from state allocations and 30 percent from tuition. In Utah, the research universities, University of Utah and Utah State University, get a larger percentage of their funding from the state than do the open-access institutions.
At WSU, Dixie, SUU and SLCC, for example, the percentages are about 50-50 state funding vs. tuition, and the split is about 40-60 at UVU. That makes it difficult them to attract low-income, older, and minority students – those students they are tasked to serve.
A proposal from the Utah Board of Regents called "Acute Equity" would funnel $69 million from the state to these colleges and universities, based on $4,800 per student, to reach a more appropriate ratio. Perhaps surprisingly, Utah State University and the University of Utah, which would not benefit directly from such a reallocation, also support it.
That's because those top-tier research universities benefit from transfer students from SLCC and other colleges who are ready for upper-division work and graduate programs. About 70 percent of SLCC's students who transfer after completing basic courses go to the U., and many others to USU.
Administrators at the research institutions see the value of keeping Utah's system of higher education accessible to all Utahns. It aligns nicely with Gov. Gary Herbert's and the Utah business community's goal of a well-educated workforce in just six years. Legislators should pass the proposal.