Sen. Amanda Shelton has appealed to University of Guam officials to reconsider their plan to raise tuition by 30 percent, urging them to explore other alternatives to avert imposing financial burden on students.
“I write this letter to express my firm opposition to the increase in tuition and fees as proposed at the University’s public hearing held on Oct. 11, 2019. My foremost concern is the interest of all our students, many of whom already struggle to afford college and rely on federal and local aide to cover their cost of education,” said Shelton.
Shelton, who chairs the legislative committee on higher education, noted that UOG received $5.5 million more in allotments this year than in the previous fiscal year.
The UOG Board of Regents on Oct. 16 passed a resolution approving tuition increases beginning in the Fanuchånan (August to December) 2020 semester. The first tuition increase will be up to 5 percent in August, with up to 5 percent increases in each of the following five semesters or until reaching 30 percent. The resolution also states that the UOG president will have the authority to lower, cancel, or delay any tuition increases throughout this period.
The board’s action prompted more than 100 students to walk out of classes to oppose the tuition increase, which was previously planned to begin with a 10 percent increase in January.
“Our students let their voices be known, and we heard them loud and clear,” said UOG President Thomas W. Krise. “Our Board of Regents and the administration listened to their comments from last week’s public hearing and were impressed with the students demonstrating today.”
The board also passed another resolution adjusting certain student and course fees. The resolution gives the UOG president the authority to delay or decrease fees if necessary.
Krise added, “I think it was great for our students to see that their opinions matter and that their ability to stand up for their beliefs can affect change. We will continue to support our students' academic, social, and professional needs, and we hope that they will support and engage their University as a partner in their pursuit of success.”
Shelton noted that a rise in student tuition is directly correlated to the enrollment levels of the university. In fact, enrollment at the university has steadily declined since the hike in student tuition in AY 2015-2016 and that change in tuition was 5 percent. It is clear a 10 percent tuition increase each semester for three semesters will greatly negatively affect enrollment at the university.
According to the 2018-2019 UOG Factbook, 65 percent of the total financial aid awarded to students received aid from federal sources, of that number 58 percent received aid from the federal Pell Grant.
“Under this proposal, the tuition would be raised above the maximum federal Pell Grant award of $6,195. Financial aid has been decreasing steadily since AY 2015-2016 to present. I ask what safeguards are in place to protect the interest of the students, specifically as it relates to the affordability of their college education,” Shelton said.
Shelton has worked to avert tuition increases by ensuring UOG receives full allotments in FY 2019 and FY 2020, which now in law with the passage of budget act.
“In the long term, the UOG 21stCentury Bill, Bill 197-35 (COR) which will receive a public hearing in the next month, seeks to amend the charter of the University of Guam to help make it more financially independent. UOG will be able to better leverage amortized financing and allow the university to enter into public private partnerships to generate revenue and address long term funding needs,” Shelton said.
UOG also recently started accepting students through the WICHE program, off-island students who would pay 150 percent of on-island tuition, to encourage greater enrollment and tuition dollars for the University. Shelton is a member of the Legislative Board of WICHE.
Shelton also announced in the letter that she introduced Bill 222-35 to encourage high school seniors to fill out a FAFSA form, further providing UOG with more federal aid. FAFSA would provide students the financial resources they need to succeed in higher education, giving them with access to Pull Grants and low interest student loans. National college access groups say many students don’t fill out a FAFSA form, leaving $2.6 billion in unclaimed Pell Grants. Bill 222-35 would also mean federal financial aid going to UOG.
With these financial remedies on the horizon, I urge you and the UOG Administration to continue to work with my office to find solutions with lower impacts on our students. Together let’s find the financial resources that will enable the institution to achieve its mission without placing the burden on those working to obtain a college degree,” Shelton said.
“Just like thousands of alumni I am proud to stand with, the University of Guam is my alma materand it holds a very special place in my heart. I have no doubt that we can do better by our students than a tuition hike that leaves them with no time to plan and prepare for consequential changes on their academic journey due to financial constraints. I hope that with greater financial independence, cost cutting and compromise we can continue to serve the students of the University an affordable education, rooted in excellence and striving ever upward,” Shelton said.