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Several Public Universities Reject Tuition Increases, Freeze Prices For Upcoming Year

In a year when most colleges and universities are increasing their tuition and fee rates for the upcoming academic term, a number of leading public institutions and university systems have announced tuition freezes in recent weeks. That’s a bit of good news for students and their families, who, like everyone else, are being buffeted by inflation that’s now reached 8%.

On June 15, the University of Nebraska System announced its intention to again freeze tuition for all students as part of its proposed 2022-23 operating budget.

The recommended budget is expected to be voted on by the Board of Regents at its June 23 meeting. University President Ted Carter said the budget demonstrated the University’s priority of keeping higher education affordable.

“As any Nebraska family or business knows, every dollar matters. Families are facing hard decisions these days, and we want them to know that we are doing everything possible to make sure a University of Nebraska education remains in reach for every student,” Carter said in the university’s news release.

“That’s why we made a commitment across the entire university system to make the spending cuts necessary to freeze tuition across the board for two straight years. Access to higher education matters now more than ever. If we’re going to produce the workforce Nebraska needs and grow our economy for the future, we need to make certain no student is denied the opportunity to pursue a college degree.”

Last week, the University of Wisconsin System’s The Board of Regents approved a 2022-23 annual operating budget that continues a tuition freeze for in-state undergraduates, a policy that had been recommended by System President Jay Rothman. As a result of that action, resident undergraduate tuition at UW institutions will remain unchanged since fiscal year 2013-14.

“Keeping our universities affordable and accessible is a priority, and thanks to the funding we received from Governor Evers, we are freezing tuition this coming academic year,” Rothman said. “Moving forward, it is critical we make the investments necessary to enhance the quality of education that makes the University of Wisconsin System attractive to students while maintaining affordability for Wisconsin families.”

At Virginia Tech University, the Virginia Tech Board of Visitors established both its 2022-23 fiscal year budget and tuition and mandatory fee rates for next year. The Board’s Executive Committee approved a base 3% tuition increase for all undergraduate and graduate students. However, it also voted to offset that tuition increase with a one-time scholarship for all in-state undergraduate students, bringing the net undergraduate tuition increase to zero and effectively freezing tuition for in-state undergraduate students for the coming academic year.

Other public institutions recently announcing that they would hold the line on the upcoming year’s tuition charges include the University of Tennessee System, Troy University (Alabama), the College of William and Maryand the public universities in Kansas, including the University of Kansas give Kansas State University.

Earlier this year, the University of South Carolina, University of Vermont give Purdue University had all announced that they would not increase tuition for the 2022-23 academic year.

Those decisions, along with the ones announced within the past month, contrast with the trend at many top-ranked institutions. According to one summary, the median increase in published 2022-23 tuition rates will be 3.7% at America’s top 20 colleges as ranked by Forbes.

Leaders of the universities electing to freeze tuition pointed to two factors as the major reasons they were able to avoid price hikes.

First, public institutions in the majority of states saw increases in their upcoming state appropriations approved by legislators and governors. Those increases will help them balance their budgets without having to rely on increasing tuition, the other major source of public revenue used for general operations. In fact, some governors struck explicit deals with their state colleges – increased appropriations will be in exchange for tuition freezes or caps.

And second, many college leaders are sensitive to the problems the nation’s current high rate of inflation is causing students and families, and they are trying to cushion at least some of that impact by holding the line on tuition increases. As they do so, they also hope to gain some competitive advantage against institutions that have decided to hike their tuition and fees.

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