May 20-21, 2004

I have received a number of concerns from students, their parents, and legislators concerning "unpredictable" tuition increases in all our units. Parents find it especially hard to plan their budgets around tuition and fee numbers that fluctuate and seem to always increase faster than the cost of living, or any other index. Tuition and costs have increased in Montana University System schools more than 110% in the last decade. Increasing costs are hard to justify to parents who believe the cost of a higher education is high to begin with.

To help parents and students plan for their education, I suggest adoption of some form of a guaranteed tuition rate for at least the two-year budget period, and preferably for the full four years. Following a legislative session where the state appropriation to the University System is fixed, our campuses would propose a tuition rate for the school's next freshman class. That rate would remain fixed for the class for the next two or four years, aside from a cost of living increase (perhaps no more than 4% annually). Out-of- state students would not receive the guarantee.

The guaranteed tuition rate could possibly be tied to the programs already in place that ask a student to follow the course progression established by the campus, and in turn, the student would be guaranteed graduation in four years.

I ask the Board and campuses to evaluate and propose some workable form of a guaranteed tuition rate, to help students and their parents effectively plan for their post-secondary education.