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Tuition hikes


To avert budget cuts that could wipe out entire academic programs, the Board of Regents [this] week will consider raising tuition and fees at Nevada’s public colleges and universities by 25 percent. If enacted, the increase would make one year of full-time undergraduate study at UNLV cost more than $5,600, which tops the average resident rate for all Western universities.

“We don’t want to do it,” board Chairman Michael Wixom said of the proposal to bring in an additional $50 million in revenues. “We don’t know if we have any other options.”

Here’s one: Ask members of the state’s economics departments to testify about price elasticity of demand. Then regents might learn that price increases offer no guarantee of the revenue increases needed to offset expected budget deficits.

The concept is simple enough. Pricing affects demand. …

Many UNLV students, already dealing with reductions in class offerings and the loss of valuable part-time instructors, might not think a UNLV education is worth an extra $1,000 per year. Others might not be able to afford it. Either way, it’s a mistake for higher education system officials to assume enrollment won’t change much as a result of such a big price increase.

But that wouldn’t be a bad thing. Tuition at Nevada’s public institutions is low because taxpayers currently cover a disproportionate share of the bill. Reducing the public’s subsidy and shifting more of the financial burden to students is more than reasonable, given the economic climate and the fact that a college education is not an entitlement.

And making higher education more expensive might make underprepared students think twice about entering university programs they probably can’t handle. …

Regents should support the tuition increases, but not as a fix for their budget woes. Rather, tuition increases are a partial solution for the higher education system’s larger ailment of mediocrity.

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