University of Wyoming students will pay more in fees starting next year to help fund advising and other services at the school.

The university’s Board of Trustees approved the program fee increase Thursday. The new fees will have an average cost of about $450 per student each school year and are expected to bring in an additional $4.5 million in revenue annually, according to the university. The money will fund advising, as well as various academic programs, as UW works to move into a future of tighter budgets.

The new fee structure also “simplifies” the previous fee structure, which included more than 140 different such costs, according to a UW press release.

Ben Wetzel, president of the Associated Students of the University of Wyoming, praised the move.

“(O)ver half of this proposal is not new fees, but rather combining already existing fees into one simple place and adding transparency for students,” he said in an email. “Even though increasing fees at all is sometimes unpopular, there are a lot of benefits that come with program fees.”

He said one benefit was a “course guarantee,” meaning that, for instance, “If a chemistry class can hold 100 students, and you’re the 101st student, the University guarantees they will find a new time and location to offer the classes you need.”

The fees, which include a $6 advising cost per credit hour, are broken down by college:

  • Engineering, $31 per credit hour;
  • Business, $26 per credit hour;
  • Arts and Sciences, between $9 and $31 per credit hour;
  • Agriculture, $21 per credit hour;
  • Education, $28 per credit hour;
  • Environment and Natural Resources, $26 per credit hour;
  • and Health Science, between $12 and $27 per credit hour.

On average, music students will see the largest increase — about $368 per semester, according to the release. Humanities students will be on the lower side, at roughly $108 per semester.

The university has lost roughly $41 million in state funding in the wake of the economic downturn. In May, 37 staff members were laid off, and the university announced it was eliminating five, low-enrollment programs. It’s also offered two rounds of buyouts for faculty and staff, and hundreds of positions have been eliminated.

“The university has been incredibly fortunate in receiving strong support from the state, which has allowed us to provide excellent educational opportunities at a very low cost to students,” President Laurie Nichols said in the press release announcing the fee increases. “Challenging times need not undermine the university’s commitment to quality, accessible and affordable higher education.”

Spokesman Chad Baldwin said the cost hike was the university recognizing that it “needed to find a way to make these improvements in student services with its own resources — that it wouldn’t be able to rely on additional state funding.”

The $6 advising fee will fund a new advising model and is intended to help expand student success and career planning and placement services. That, in turn, will ideally help the university achieve its goal of boosting its freshman-to-sophomore retention to 80 percent while increasing its graduation rates.

The new plan requires more than 20 new full-time equivalent employees in advisor and counseling support.

Other areas on campus that will receive a bump from the new fees include the Success, Tutoring, Engagement and Personal Growth Program; the Math Lab and Oral Communication Center; tutoring; internship outreach and coordination; and supplemental instruction, according to the press release.

The Associated Students of the University of Wyoming passed on Oct. 31 a resolution supporting the program fee increase. According to the university, a survey of undergraduates revealed that less than a third of students were opposed to the increase. The largest number of responses — more than 47 percent — said they were “maybe” in favor of the increases. More than 20 percent said they were without reservation.

Generally, higher education in Wyoming is among the cheapest in the country. A Student Loan Hero study from March ranked Wyoming third for lowest per-credit hour prices, behind only New Mexico and California.

Follow education reporter Seth Klamann on Twitter @SethKlamann

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Seth Klamann joined the Star-Tribune in 2016 and covers education and health. A 2015 graduate of the University of Missouri and proud Kansas City native, Seth worked for newspapers in Milwaukee and Omaha before coming to Casper.

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