Gov. Herbert calls for tuition freeze, structural changes in higher education

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) –  Along with his budget recommendations, Governor Gary Herbert released some structural recommendations for education in Utah at his budget press conference last week.

The governor made it clear that education is the priority… 52% of our budget could be headed straight to the classroom in 2021.

But first, he demanded improvement in higher education.

“We’re also recommending that we, in fact, freeze any tuition increases this year,” said Herbert as he announced his budget recommendations.

This freeze would only impact our public higher-ed schools… But it’s not a surprise.

“That’s something that might have made us a little nervous but it’s something the board has been working on now for the past couple years,” said Dave Woolstenhulme, Interim Commissioner of Higher Education.

Researchers have been digging deep into tuition in Utah and the Board of Regents believes they’ll be able to set an affordability standard by March of this year, making that tuition freeze irrelevant.

“It’s not like it’s been willy nilly across our campuses of… Oh, we need a tuition increase. A lot of times it comes from students with different initiatives, one of the biggest things lately is mental health, that’s something we’ve been trying to improve in our stat, so we’ve even had students say they’re willing to pay a small increase to have those resources available to them,” said Woolstenhulme.

Along with a tuition freeze, the governor recommended consolidating the governing body of higher education in Utah.

Currently, we have a Board of Regents over higher education that includes public colleges and universities and the Board of Trustees over our technical and career colleges.

“Sometimes there’s competition between the two systems which there shouldn’t because it’s what’s best for the student,” said Woolstenhulme.

Both of these boards govern tuition, accreditation and the ability to transfer your credits.

“One of the things we’re working on is stack-ability, from certificates into associates degree into bachelor’s degree and in my mind, that becomes much easier under one leadership than under separate boards,” said Woolstenhulme.

The governor and the board agree: change is necessary to manage the growth coming down the pipeline.

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