Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion In this May 9, 2013 file photo Kenai Peninsula College Kenai River Campus graduates make their way to the ceremony at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. Students at the community college - and the entire University of Alaska system - will see an increase in tuition in 2015.

Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion In this May 9, 2013 file photo Kenai Peninsula College Kenai River Campus graduates make their way to the ceremony at Kenai Central High School in Kenai, Alaska. Students at the community college - and the entire University of Alaska system - will see an increase in tuition in 2015.

UA raises tuition to offset deficit

  • By Kelly Sullivan
  • Saturday, November 7, 2015 6:43pm
  • News

Students at Kenai Peninsula College will be paying an average of $108 more per semester for full time course loads as part of a 5 percent tuition increase designed to help the University of Alaska offset a decline in state funding.

The UA Board of Regents voted to raise rates across the system along with approving the 2017 fiscal year budget Wednesday.

“The increase will help KPC handle the anticipated budget reductions,” said KPC KPC Director Gary Turner. “…At this time we don’t know what deficit we might face… We won’t know at least until April what our budget will be.”

For students taking an average course load of 12 credits per semester, they are looking at a $9 increase per hour, Turner said.

Turner said that in the fall of 2014, spring and summer of 2015 semesters the college produced 34,007 credits. The next increase will go into effect at the start of the fall 2016 semester and an additional $306,000 in revenue will be generated if the same number combined of credits is produced during that first and subsequent two semesters, he said.

“The Alaska Office of Management and Budget forecasted a 4.5 percent decrease in general funds for the university for next year and for KPC that would be about $385,000, but that does not take into account the credit hour decrease we are presently experiencing due to declining enrollments,” Turner said. “It also does not take into account a projected increase to UA’s fixed costs. Our total shortfall could be upwards of $700,000 if we see a 4.5 percent decrease in general funds and a continued enrollment decline.”

Turner said he supported UA President Jim Johnsen’s proposal that would have raised tuition by 9 percent. Had the regents approved the higher rates it would have raised tuition by $16 per credit.

The regents approved a 2017 fiscal year budget that increases in spending by 7.6 percent more than the current year fiscal year, according to a Wednesday press release from Roberta Graham, the UA associate vice president of public affairs and federal relations. The $960 million budget includes a request for $350 million in state funds and a receipt authorization for $582.9 million in non-general fund revenue sources including grants and tuition, according to the release.

The request goes against recommendations from the office of management and budget, according to the release. The office’s recommendations included the university spending $15.8 million less in the 2017 fiscal year than the current year.

“(Johnsen and the regents) wanted to make sure that legislators saw what is really the true cost of delivering quality education and meeting contractual obligations in the coming year,” according to the release. “The difference between the guidance and the budget approved by the Regents is a $40 million gap that will require internal reductions and reallocations to meet.”

Turner said KPC staff and administration has been working on a plan that would reduce overall spending by 10 percent.

“We expect to be ready when the final budget is announced next year,” Turner said.

Individual colleges do have some autonomy and can raise or lower tuition separate from Board of Regents policy, Turner said, but he will follow what the regents approved.

Doing so at an individual site could discourage enrollment, Turner said in a previous Clarion interview.

The regents-approved budget will now go to Gov. Bill Walker, and his amended version to the legislature in December, Turner said.

Reach Kelly Sullivan at kelly.sullivan@peninsulaclarion.com

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