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Low-tuition goal fading

The state’s higher education system is poised to abandon its traditional low-tuition model in favor of one that charges more, but also offers more financial aid for low-income students.

Chancellor Dan Klaich outlined a proposal Friday for the system’s governing Board of Regents. Regents had asked the chancellor to develop a new tuition and fee policy.

What the chancellor outlined follows a so-called “high tuition, high aid” model that’s becoming popular. California has recently followed that path, and fees are set to rise more than 30 percent there next year.

The board may vote on the new model at its June meeting.

There seemed to be little opposition on Friday.

“I am not a high-tuition advocate, but I am a higher tuition, higher financial aid advocate,” said Milton Glick, president of the University of Nevada, Reno.

Regent Jason Geddes said he realized the new model would hurt some students, but saw the step as necessary to preserve the system as state support for higher education dwindles.

As outlined by Klaich, the new model would commit at least 10 percent of tuition and fees at community colleges and 15 percent at the state college and the universities to financial aid, at least 90 percent of it need-based. Currently, about 5 percent at the community colleges and 10 percent at the universities goes to aid.

The old policy, which was suspended in September, tied tuition and fee increases to a formula that used fees at regional peer institutions. It was complicated and unwieldy, Klaich said.

The new plan, if adopted, would tie annual increases to the national inflation rate within higher education. Increases in this index, called the Higher Education Price Index, have averaged about 4 percent a year over the last several years.

As regents have responded to a worsening budget situation, tuition and fees in Nevada have risen 39 percent in the past five years.

Klaich recommended that regents keep a fee surcharge that was set to expire. It adds $6.25 a credit at community colleges, $10 at the state college and $14 at the universities. He did not recommend an additional fee increase for next year, but did not rule one out either. Fees are already scheduled to increase 10 percent next year.

The changes come as higher education leaders fear less support from the state in coming years. Budgets have already been cut, and these leaders see the trend continuing.

The regents may also adopt a so-called differential tuition model, wherein higher-cost programs would cost students more than lower-cost ones.

At UNLV, for example, the most expensive program — informatics — costs the university nearly 20 times as much per student as does the cheapest program — communications studies — according to an analysis by the university.

 

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