A proposal to revise University of Wyoming program fees was tabled for later discussion after UW President Laurie Nichols said it could be too late to implement for fall 2017.
Representatives from a committee appointed by Nichols to propose a replacement for UW’s wide variety of academic fees presented their proposal the UW Board of Trustees on Thursday.
“There’s so many fees in (the current fee book), I call it the Chinese menu fee book,” said Rob Godby, director of the UW Center for Energy Economics and Public Policy and co-chair of the Program Fee Implementation Committee. “You have 11 different undergraduate college fees. It’s very difficult to figure what the cost is to go to UW.”
A UW news release states the committee’s proposal would have replaced undergraduate fees, about 86 course fees and more than 40 fees for course or program activities as well as other charges.
While Godby said the proposed program fees would cost students an average $370 more than the current fee structure, he said it would simplify the system and allow students to know the true cost of their education.
“As we go forward, it’s worth noting Wyoming has by far the lowest in-state tuition (in the U.S.),” Godby said. “And we have the second lowest out-of-state tuition.”
However, he said the university’s low tuition means it relies heavily on the state for funding.
“Basically in Wyoming, tuition covers about 35 percent of the cost of educating the student,” Godby said.
Instituting the proposed program fees would help increase the cost of education covered by tuition to about 39 percent, Godby said.
“(The increased cost) could be as low as $178 (per semester) in English to about $700 (per semester) in chemical engineering,” Godby said. “It is an impact, but hopefully it’s not going to tip anybody over for debt.”
However, Trustee John McKinley said he thought it would be too much to ask the student to pay an increased fee rate as well as a 4 percent tuition increase, which was approved in November for fiscal year 2018.
“Loading this type of fee increase on top of that (tuition increase) is going to take me a little time to wrap my head around,” McKinley said. “I feel this magnitude of fee increases is inappropriate and excessive. It is approximately a 61 percent fee increase of the current fees being charged.”
Although he said he was supportive of efforts requiring students to shoulder a greater share of the costs of their individual programs, he thought the program fee proposal went too far.
Changing the fall semester’s cost structure so late in the year was another cause for concern, McKinley said.
“Even though those fees are subject to change — I understand that — I don’t think that is a fair and proper service we are doing for the incoming students,” he said.
The program fee increase also did not fall in line with the Wyoming Constitution Article 7, Section 16, which states “the instruction furnished may be as nearly free as possible,” McKinley said.
The subject of program fees required more thoughtful conversation, and if implemented, the students needed plenty of warning, McKinley added.
“I agree with John McKinley, I think we’re getting a little late in the year to do something,” Nichols said.
To find common ground, Nichols said she would like to sit down with the students and the committee before trying to move another proposal forward, which could be back on the table for fall 2018.
“If we can approve this, I want it to be something we would all feel OK about,” she said. “If we can’t eventually figure out something for this, we’ll be coming back to 100-plus course fee proposals for you to look at, and it won’t be anything I created — they’ll be resurrected from last year, because we put them on the table.”