By Daniel Bendtsen
Via Wyoming News Exchange
LARAMIE — Strong enrollment at the University of Wyoming has been a point of pride for administrators the last two years, but the record freshman class this year hasn’t actually been that beneficial for UW’s tuition revenue.
“Even though we have a higher number of students enrolled in the University of Wyoming in this academic year, our net tuition revenue is lower than we had budgeted or anticipated,” David Jewell, associate vice president for budgeting and fiscal planning, told the board of trustees last week. “Our payer mix has shifted. We are awarding more aid and scholarships through the admissions process to non-resident students who are receiving those awards than our budget model in previous years would have anticipated.”
In the 2018 fiscal year, UW handed out $6.2 million in tuition waivers, with the Western Undergraduate Exchange accounting for $3.6 million and the Rocky Mountain Scholars accounting for $1.4 million of that.
During the same year, $23.5 million in institutional aid and $7 million in aid from the UW Foundation was handed out.
As UW is working on its budget for the 2020 fiscal year, Jewell is budgeting for no increase in net tuition revenue, even though UW’s tuition rate is set to rise by 4 percent.
Jewell noted that high-schoolers with a high enough grade-point average and test scores are automatically given certain UW-provided aid, regardless of whether that aid is sought by the student.
Trustee John McKinley said that UW is likely to be over-budget at the end of the 2019 fiscal year for the amount of university-based aid that’s being giving out.
During the past year, UW leaders have been discussing the possibility of lowering the school’s sticker price for out-of-state students while reducing the amount of deferred revenue.
Jewell said that, assuming UW’s funding from the Legislature doesn’t significantly increase anytime soon, there’s an imminent need to change the school’s “enrollment model.”
“As we add more products on the shelf, there are going to be costs that come with offering more of those, and if our enrollment model is bringing in more and more students who are not covering that cost to deliver, and at the same we’re not seeing corresponding increases to our largest revenue source, which is still, by far, state appropriations, we are potentially setting ourselves up for a position that would not be favorable — in which costs exceeds revenue,” Jewell said.
Trustee Kermit Brown said that any changes to how UW charges out-of-state students should still allow UW to “maintain our reputation that we have nationally of being a great bargain for an education.”