WMU News

WMU moving to flat-rate tuition this year

April 22, 2005

KALAMAZOO--Acting at its April 22 meeting, Western Michigan University's Board of Trustees approved a flat-rate tuition plan designed to simplify the tuition structure, encourage students to move more quickly toward graduation and reduce the total cost of a WMU degree.

The plan will take effect with the beginning of the fall 2005 semester. Trustees did not set tuition rates for the 2005-06 academic year and are expected to wait until a clearer picture emerges from state budget talks about the level of state support the University can expect for the coming year.

"For both new and continuing students, there are real advantages to this new flat-rate tuition policy," says WMU President Judith I. Bailey. "Every student who graduates in four years rather than five will save more than $10,000 on the total cost of earning a degree. We're providing an incentive for students to earn their degrees quickly and become part of the state's work force, and we're recommitting our University to the goal of increasing the number of college graduates in Michigan."

Under the new plan, which is similar to plans used at six other universities in Michigan as well as elsewhere around the nation, undergraduates will pay the same rate for a course load that ranges from 12 to 16 credit hours per semester. The rate will be set at the cost of 15 credit hours, which is in line with the state's definition of a full-time student. For graduate students, the charge would be the same for students taking 10 to 12 credit hours, and the rate would be set at the cost of 11 credits under the current structure.

Students taking fewer hours than those in the prescribed block would be charged by the credit hour. Students who take more than the block's maximum would be charged the flat rate plus a per credit fee for the amount exceeding the maximum.

The new policy also includes elimination of a number of fees enacted for the 2004-05 academic year that have made it difficult for both students and University officials to accurately estimate costs and revenue. Those fees range from $40 to $150 per class. The fees eliminated include the remedial fee, course repeat fee, graduate adjustment fee for undergraduate students taking graduate-level courses, the professional college fee for 300- and 400-level courses in business and education and the intensive college fee now assessed for 300- and 400 level courses in aviation, engineering, fine arts, health and human services and for science and other faculty-intensive courses in the arts and sciences.

Among factors the board used in making its decision were figures showing the costs for a typical undergraduate under the current plan taking 13 credit hours per semester for five years compared with the costs for an undergraduate taking 16 credits per semester under the flat rate. Under the flat-rate plan, the student paid less overall in tuition, less in overall living expenses, less in enrollment fees and less in class fees, for an overall savings of $10,330.

Another benefit of the new policy will be to move students more quickly through degree programs, which will lead to more efficient use of University resources and an increase in the size of the state's skilled work force. Late last year, a statewide task force led by Michigan Lt. Gov. John Cherry issued a report urging educators around the state to focus on ways to increase the number of college graduates in the state to meet Gov. Jennifer Granholm's goal of doubling that number in the next decade. Currently, Michigan falls well below the national average, with only 23 percent of its residents holding college degrees compared with the national average of 27 percent.

The flat-rate tuition approach is not new territory for the University. It was the method used to assess tuition until 1970, when the current per-credit hour tuition policy was set. The 1970 change triggered a dramatic drop in the per-semester class load, causing a dramatic increase in the length of time between entry to the University and graduation.

Another trend attributed to the per-credit hour structure is the tendency of students to take the minimum number of courses required and to avoid classes simply taken for interest or to expand their knowledge base.

Six of Michigan's 15 public universities currently use a flat-rate tuition structure, and universities that have recently made the switch report an increase in per-semester credit loads. Around the nation, a number of other individual universities and statewide systems have adopted the flat-rate tuition schedule. In the private-college sector, the structure is commonplace.

Media contact: Matt Kurz, 269 387-8400, matt.kurz@wmich.edu

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