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Higher tuition, fees being considered by UW trustees, as well as employee-pay distribution

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LARAMIE, Wyoming — University of Wyoming trustees wrestled Thursday with whether all the money raised in a proposed 4 percent tuition increase should be used for merit-based faculty salary increases or whether some of the money should also be used to cover other expenses.

"It's a broad discussion of really the allocation of dollars to the institution based on the needs of the institution," trustees President Dave Bostrom said.

The trustees are expected to make a decision Friday.

There is no issue among trustees whether tuition should be increased, but there is disagreement on how to spend the estimated $2 million the increase would produce.

Under the proposal before the trustees, tuition in the 2014-15 academic year would go up $4 a credit hour, or about $120 for full-time resident undergraduate students.

A companion proposal to raise student fees by $91 would mean a total tuition and fee increase of $211 next year for resident undergraduate students. Resident undergraduate students pay $4,404 in tuition and fees now. That would increase to $4,615 under the proposals.

According to a UW survey, UW has the lowest resident undergraduate tuition and fees of 173 U.S. public doctoral institutions now, and that ranking will not change even with the proposed increase. UW is about $1,200 cheaper now than the next least-costly institution. The survey did not include the costs of room and board.

During the last year, university administrators have been complaining that they are losing faculty and having a hard time filling vacant faculty positions because the state has not provided money for pay raises over the last four years.

The Legislature this year approved $4.15 million for UW pay raises beginning in the next fiscal year. That will allow the university to increase salaries by 2.35 percent. UW trustees had hoped to increase salaries by 4 percent.

UW President Dick McGinity has proposed using about $500,000 from the proposed tuition increase to supplement merit pay increases and the rest of the money for other expenses such as libraries, equipment and student recruitment.

McGinity told trustees that UW is uncompetitive in both salaries and other areas of university operations. He has said the state cuts in funding in recent years have left the university unable to stay on top of basic maintenance needs and technology improvements.

Still, some trustees noted that all the talk recently of the need for improving faculty pay has led many to believe the tuition increase would be used for faculty salaries and not for maintenance and other non-salary costs.

"I think we need to find other ways to address these problems," trustee Richard Davis Jr. said.

Student representative Brett Kahler said students support raising tuition if the money is used for faculty pay but that support declines if the money is used for other purposes.

Faculty Senate Chair Colin Keeney said there would be a "negative reaction" from UW faculty if all the tuition revenue wasn't used to support salaries. "That is the general consensus out there right now, that if there is to be a tuition increase then that revenue would be put into a compensation fund," Keeney said.

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