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story.lead_photo.caption Proposed tuition/mandatory fees for the 2018-19 academic year at UA System campuses. - Photo by Arkansas Democrat-Gazette / SOURCE: University of Arkansas System board of trustees agenda book and University of Arkansas Syste

Tuition would remain flat but mandatory fees would increase for in-state students at four-year universities under a proposal for the University of Arkansas System.

Proposed tuition and fee rates were released Monday ahead of a University of Arkansas System board of trustees meeting scheduled for Wednesday and Thursday at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.

Rising fees would cause annual costs to go up by more than $500 in 2018-19 for students at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff and at UALR. UAPB would see annual tuition-and-fee costs rise by $630, to $7,841.50 from $7,211.50, while UALR would see such costs increase by $503.10, to $9,438.60 from $8,935.50.

The three other four-year universities in the UA System -- UA-Fayetteville, UA-Fort Smith and UA-Monticello -- would see more modest increases in mandatory fees.

The proposal comes after Gov. Asa Hutchinson in January asked public universities in the state to hold the line on in-state tuition increases for the 2018-19 academic year.

In a letter to university leaders, Hutchinson noted an increase in funding for higher education as part of a change in the funding model for public colleges and universities.

State lawmakers in March, as part of budget legislation, approved $9.4 million in extra funding to implement what's been called a productivity-based funding formula partly based on the number of credentials earned by students.

Elsewhere in the state, other universities have already set their 2018-19 tuition and fee rates.

Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, the University of Central Arkansas in Conway, Southern Arkansas University in Magnolia and Henderson State University in Arkadelphia all held tuition flat but raised fees paid by students.

Such temporary tuition freezes have taken place elsewhere, said Sandy Baum, a nonresident fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based Urban Institute who studies college affordability.

But despite a few states enacting such freezes, "what doesn't happen very often is that tuition stays flat for years on end," Baum said.

UA System spokesman Nate Hinkel said it was unclear when all universities in the UA System last kept tuition unchanged.

Tuition costs have generally increased at the state's largest public university, UA-Fayetteville. Dating at least to the 1994-95 academic year, tuition increased every year except for the 2009-10 academic year, according to online information published by the school.

The proposed 2018-19 rate of $9,129 in tuition and mandatory fees for UA-Fayetteville is about a 0.74 percent increase compared with the 2017-18 rate.

Compared with a decade earlier, the proposed 2018-19 rate of $9,129 would be about a 43 percent increase above the $6,400 in tuition and mandatory fee costs for the 2008-09 academic year.

Other schools have seen similar increases. U.S. News & World Report last year reported that based on a survey of 300 universities, in-state tuition and fees jumped 65 percent over a 10-year period from 2007-08 to 2017-18, rising to $10,691.

Hutchinson also asked the state's two-year colleges to keep tuition increases at or below the consumer price index, a measure of the average change over time in prices paid by urban consumers for goods and services, according to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Most of the seven two-year schools in the UA System would see tuition increases of $30 annually under the proposal.

Two schools would see larger tuition increases: the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville, which would see tuition rise to $2,220 from $2,175; and the University of Arkansas Pulaski Technical College, which would see tuition go up to $3,981.90 from $3,900.

The seven two-year schools also are raising fees.

Hinkel said fee increases in part relate to the costs of new technology expected to save schools money over time. Hinkel said schools are starting a Systemwide Enterprise Resource Planning project expected to reduce costs associated with contracting for various software products.

Baum, with the Urban Institute, said college affordability is affected by many factors, including financial aid to students and family incomes, as well as state funding for public higher education.

"In the most recent years, the amount of financial aid available hasn't been enough to make up for the price increases," Baum said. In general, "college prices are certainly not going down," she said.

A Section on 05/22/2018

Print Headline: UA System unveils rate plans; Proposal calls for higher fees; tuition flat at 4-year schools

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