UW proposes tuition freeze for Wyoming students

By Daniel Bendtsen

Laramie Boomerang

Via Wyoming News Exchange

LARAMIE — For the first time in five years, the University of Wyoming Board of Trustees could divert from its standard policy of 4 percent tuition increases for both in-state and out-of-state students.

The trustees are set to vote on a proposal next week that would, for the 2020-2021 academic year, freeze tuition rates for in-state students while increasing out-of-state tuition by 8 percent.

The proposal would also add $1 million of need-based aid for Wyoming students while ending the requirement for mandatory fee increases.

The plan, which was crafted through the a subcommittee of the board, would also call for a “transition plan to retain those current students impacted by an 8 percent tuition increase.”

Administrators estimate the changes would increase the in-state enrollment by 75 students while decreasing the number of out-of-state students by 84.

In addition to increasing the out-of-state price, UW administrators are also proposing plans that would reduce the amount of out-of-state students who receive tuition waivers through the Rocky Mountain Scholars and Western Undergraduate Exchange programs. Currently, most out-of-state students receive at least some tuition discounts.

In the 2018 fiscal year, UW handed out $6.2 million in tuition waivers, with the Western Undergraduate Exchange accounting for $3.6 million and the Rocky Mountain Scholars accounting for $1.4 million of that.

During the same year, $23.5 million in institutional aid and $7 million in aid from the UW Foundation was handed out.

Under the university’s policy, out-of-state students with a high enough composite of ACT scores and grade-point averages automatically receive the Western Undergraduate Exchange award, which provides 150 percent of in-state tuition.

Under the current average requirement, a student would need at least a 28.5 on the ACT and a 3.5 GPA. GPAs need to be higher if a student has a low ACT score, and vice versa.

Under the proposed changes, the average student would need a 3.7 GPA and a ACT score of 33.5 to qualify for the Western Undergraduate Exchange.

The proposed revision for tuition waivers would also increase dollar figures of the Rocky Mountain Scholarships while also increasing the academic requirements.

The new strategy arose out of a realization that, despite a record freshman class of 1,859 coming to campus this past fall, tuition revenue has been less than expected.

By the end of February, UW had brought in $58 million worth of tuition revenue for the school year. Administrators had budgeted for $2.6 million more than that.

Administrators largely blame the disappointing tuition revenue on the amount of tuition waivers given to out-of-state students.

The proposal is a major reversal of one that administrators brought before the trustees in 2018. At that time, administrators suggested a major reduction in the sticker price for out-of-state students, who would then be expected to comprise the bulk of the university’s planned enrollment increase. UW’s five-year strategic plan calls for increasing enrollment to 13,500 by 2022.

The 2018 proposal came after UW leadership tasked Huron Consulting Group in 2017 with evaluating the university’s capacity for enrollment growth and attracting new students.

Broadly, the study found UW capable of — and well-suited for — expansion and recommended UW reduce its annual undergraduate out-of-state tuition from $15,480 to $9,500.

Ultimately, the trustees largely panned the idea.

Trustee Kermit Brown, who served as Wyoming Speaker of the House, noted in July that Wyoming legislators are strongly opposed to subsidizing out-of-state students. If administrators weren’t able to prove a decrease in price of out-of-state students would be revenue-neutral, he said “we’re going to have some tough sledding” in the Legislature.