USD students will see a tuition and fee increase of $315 next year. There will be a 0.5 percent increase in tuition costs and a 21.4 percent increase in fees, according to an email from Tena Haraldson, USD’s director of communications.
The 0.5 percent increase in tuition is to cover inflation. On average, an in-state undergraduate student taking 30 credit hours next year will pay $8,555.32 for tuition and the mandatory activity fee.
The increase was approved by the South Dakota Board of Regents Thursday morning. Student tuition and fees across the state will have an average increase of $237.81 per year, according to a BOR press release.
USD will see a 3.7 percent tuition and fee increase of $315, said Student Government Association President Teagan McNary.
McNary said USD’s General Activity Fee increase did pass.
“Nobody ever likes to see their tuition increase,” she said. “Hopefully we will see the increase go to things that will impact the students.”
Four universities submitted requests for a General Activity Fee increase: Black Hills State University, Northern State University, South Dakota State University and the University of South Dakota, all of which were passed.
“Student activities have a direct impact on the quality of the higher education experience and improve student retention,” said Mike Rush, the regents’ executive director and CEO in the press release. “These activities contribute to students completing their degrees, which is the most powerful way to reduce overall costs.”
USD’s 3.7 percent increase in tuition and fees is larger than any other institutions in the regents system. South Dakota School of Mines and Technology and Dakota State University, which didn’t have a General Activity Fee increase, will only see their tuition and fees raise by 0.5 and 0.6 percent, respectively.
In an interview, Rush said that USD’s increase has an easy explanation.
“It’s pretty simple – the tuition increase actually is only about a half a percentage point, the balance is in the General Activity Fee,” Rush said.
The decision to raise USD’s GAF by a total of $13.50 per credit hour was made three years ago, and the plan was to raise it incrementally over a period of three years until the $13.50 was reached. Each year the Board of Regents has to approve the increase.
Last year, the state decided to freeze tuition across the board, and with it, the planned USD fee increase was nixed.
“We felt like, the state, in order to honor that tuition freeze, we really had to turn down any kind of mandatory fee increases,” Rush said. “And so USD didn’t get to implement that second year of the fee increase.”
This year, with a small inflationary tuition increase, Rush said the board allowed both years’ fee increases (the one originally cancelled for this year, and next year’s) to be pass in one lump sum 2018, which is part of why the tuition and fee increase is so large.
“Since this year we had a very small general tuition increase for USD, if we were going to do a larger GAF, this would probably be the year to get it done,” Rush said.
The state budget shortfall, Rush said, wasn’t a factor in the tuition increase – but while tuition isn’t affected, university budgets for fiscal year 2018 will be hit by the shortfall.
“The system as a whole all had some general account reductions for the next fiscal year,” Rush said. “And they’ll have to absorb those cuts in their operating budget.”
As a group, the regents schools will see millions of dollars’ worth of reductions in their budgets, including general fund cuts of over $1,000,000 across the board – including $295,652 for USD. There will also be an overall cut of $907,302 from the schools’ maintenance and repair budgets.
“In terms of the M & R funding, we just won’t be able to do as many maintenance and repair projects this next year,” Rush said. “That becomes problematic over time, you know, the building’s not going to fall down in one year, but, eventually, if you don’t keep your facilities up, then they deteriorate, and then you either don’t have a place to go to school, or you have a fairly major cost to replace facilities.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that tuition and fees will increase by $594 next year. The actual increase is $315, most of which comes from the activity fee increase.