Tuition Model Touting Transparency on Hold

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Interim Chancellor Larry Skogen has told North Dakota University System institutions to “hold off” completing drafts of a new tuition model.

A document outlining the Pathways Tuition Model said the plan was initially sought to be in place next fall at North Dakota State.

“As we’ve discussed before,” Skogen wrote to NDUS campuses last week, “the entire landscape in which we are trying to carrying (sic) out the planning stages of the new tuition model is in great flux.”

The state’s higher education landscape is filled with “uncertainty,” he said, in part because of what state legislators may implement during the remainder of their session. Skogen mentioned tuition limits as a potential factor.

“Once we know the outcome of the session, we can re-group and determine an appropriate path and timeline for moving ahead, if implementation of the new tuition model remains an option,” he said.

NDSU Vice President for Finance and Administration Bruce Bollinger said fall of 2016 would likely be the earliest starting date for any implementation if the model stays intact.

Transparent bundling

Pathways would “roll up” additional fees NDSU students are charged and put those expenditures in “the tuition bucket,” Bollinger said.

The tuition rate would rise, but fees, like program and online charges, would subside.

“Some will pay more, and some will pay less,” Bollinger said, noting today’s students who are enrolled in classes with many fees would benefit more from Pathways.

Others may not reap as many benefits, but, overall, Bollinger said the new model would be “revenue neutral” for the university.

Regardless of pay, students will enjoy the transparent nature of Pathways, as well, Bollinger said.

Pathways would help students know more precisely how much they are spending on college, which would help simplify, for instance, filling out a FAFSA.

“Your loans, your scholarships and your financial aid is built off of that information and that FAFSA, so that’s another big advantage to have that out there,” he said.

Credits

In the final phase of implementation, Pathways’ focus narrows in on how students pay for their credits.

At NDSU, students pay per credit hour until they reach 12, where fees are then capped.

But a 12-credit level is not feasible for an efficient student, Bollinger said.

“You have to take more than 12 credits to graduate in four years,” he said.

Pathways looks to raise the base credit level to 15 at NDSU and the University of North Dakota, a move that would incentivize students to take more classes so they can graduate sooner.

NDSU officials, however, want to offer options to those who cannot reach 15 credits.

If 15 credits proved too much, “leeway would be built in there without changing the tuition rate for the student,” Karin Hegstad, the director of NDSU Customer Account Services, said.

She continued, saying NDSU is looking to have 12- and 15-credit students to pay the same amount in tuition, with a hike in costs for those taking 13 and 14 credits.

“Putting a bubble in there at 13 and 14 credits, and then (bring tuition) back down at 15 (will) try to give students incentive to take that extra class to move towards degree completion,” Hegstad said.

Student-centric

Though in its preliminary stages, Bollinger said he and his staff have talked with student government about Pathways for the last two years.

Students, he said, are on board with an upfront tuition model.

“As a student, you would know for sure how much your tuition is going to cost at North Dakota State University,” Bollinger said.

Hegstad said Pathways is a response to student requests.

“The students have gone to the State Board of Higher Education in wanting it to go this direction, also,” she said. “ … This would be a positive move toward what students want.”

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