SD tuition may rise 4-5 percentUniversity students would help pay proposed raises for state workers.
By: Bob Mercer, Republic Capitol Bureau
SPEARFISH — Students attending state universities in South Dakota could see their tuition rise by 4 to 5 percent next school year.
That’s because of the pay increases that Gov. Dennis Daugaard has proposed for state government employees and because of rising cost for their insurance.
Most university employees — 57 percent — aren’t covered by general funding from the Legislature. Their salaries and benefits are paid from other sources including tuition and fees.
The state Board of Regents, whose members govern the university system, discussed the governor’s budget recommendations as one of the agenda items at their business meeting Thursday.
Monte Kramer, the university system’s vice president of finance and administration, said the preliminary numbers indicate that the pay and insurance increases would require about 4.5 percent more from tuition.
The governor recommended a 3 percent salary increase and up to an additional 3.5 percent for employees below the midpoint of the salary ranges for their jobs. The insurance program needs a 14 percent infusion of additional money.
University faculty wouldn’t qualify for the extra 3.5 percent of midpoint pay because they aren’t classified as career service employees.
They instead have been receiving in many cases a different supplement from the salary competitiveness program that the regents independently operate by charging an additional 1 percent increase in tuition most years.
Regent Randy Morris, of Spearfish, said students would be hit with 5.5 percent more tuition if that 1 percent salary enhancement remains in effect.
“I’m not sure we can afford to do both,” Kramer responded.
Several regents immediately signaled they aren’t ready to call for the additional 1 percent again.
“The students did not agree to this increasing every year,” said Regent Jim Hansen, of Pierre.
The tuition and fees decisions will come at the regents’ April meeting.
“All the constituencies need to know there are things beyond our control,” said Regent Harvey Jewett, of Aberdeen.
“We pay for 58 percent of employees and don’t have a printing press.”
Regent Dean Krogman, of Brookings, agreed the 1 percent enhancement isn’t guaranteed but he urged the board members to keep in mind the need for faculty salaries to be competitive in the higher education marketplace.
“We should be able to justify it to the students,” Krogman said.