Tuition hike of 8.5% has students at Westminster College ‘outraged’

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SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – Utah’s most expensive college is about to get even pricier. Westminster is raising its tuition by 8.5 percent and students are outraged. 

“Instantly I’m like talking to my RA [Resident Assistant] and I’m like, what?!” Carli Buzzard, a student at Westminster, shouted in response to ABC4 Brittany Johnson’s question when asked what her initial reaction was to the news.

President Bethami Dobkin sent an email to students this week informing them of the increase. 

Students are currently paying $34,984 in tuition, but in Fall 2020, students will have to pay $37,960.

“This year’s increase is a little larger than last year,” said Dobkin.

“I came to Westminster because they had a neuroscience program and not a lot of schools offer neuroscience. It’s my passion. With this increase, I can’t afford going here anymore. That means I’m going to have to go back home and study something I’m not driven into,” Buzzard explained. 

Nathan Martin is on the track and field team at Westminster and told ABC4 that his scholarship doesn’t cover his full tuition.

“I’m already working part-time, like 30 hours a week to try and pay for school. Tuition goes up, I gotta work harder and work more. It’s already a struggle to keep up student-athlete life, a working life, and school life.” 

Martin and Buzzard both want to know what the school is going to do with the extra money.

“Westminster spends a lot on students and giving them a full integrated experience. We have extremely small class sizes, faculty with advanced degrees that are advising them, we have coaching and mentoring programs, we have advising, and we have healthcare counseling services. All kinds of really a community of support that is dedicated to the students, and that’s where the money goes,” Dobkin said. 

Westminster is a private, independent, non-profit institution that relies on tuition revenues, auxiliaries, and donors. 

In the email sent to students, Dobkin stated, “For the past several years, expenses at Westminster have exceeded revenues.”

“I’ve learned that they’ve lost money over the past few years. I want to know was there an issue with the budgeting? How did that exactly happen?” Martin asked rhetorically. 

“Is there a lack of donations coming in? Is that why tuition is being increased?” asked Johnson. 

“No. Our fundraising is strong. The cost to provide the type of experience we provide just continues to escalate,” Dobkin replied.

Students want to know if their scholarships will be increased to cover the tuition hike.

“Every time we increase tuition we increase scholarship funding as well. But the scholarship packages come out in the spring. So, they’ve heard about the tuition increase without yet knowing about the increase in scholarships that will happen next spring,” said Dobkin. “Ideally we’ve managed to match resources with students based on their need on an individual basis. So, every student has the opportunity to have a financial aid counselor that goes through their own individual circumstance and can go through the best options for them to afford a Westminster education,” the president added.

“From what we know, not all students will get an increase in their scholarships,” Buzzard said. I need to have that information now so that I know how much money do I need to look out for.”

Students have organized a silent protest, which is scheduled to take place Friday, on campus. The protest is not open to the public. 

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