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Two WMU colleges may adopt differential tuition model

Dec. 20, 2010

KALAMAZOO--Two of Western Michigan University's academic colleges--one of its smallest and one of its largest--may implement a tuition model successfully used around the nation to acknowledge and accommodate disciplines that require high-cost instructional formats, compete heavily with the private sector for top-notch professionals to fill faculty ranks or offer significant employment opportunities upon graduation.

At its Dec. 17 meeting, the WMU Board of Trustees considered a recommendation that calls for WMU's College of Fine Arts and Haworth College of Business to use a differential tuition model beginning fall 2011. Trustees tabled the proposal to allow time for public comment. They will vote on the recommendation at a future meeting.

Both plans have been under review and development for the past 15 months, according to Dr. Kay Palan, dean of the business college, and Dr. Margaret Merrion, fine arts dean. The pair presented their respective plans to trustees, noting that college administrators, faculty and students were involved and provided feedback during the development process.

Each plan calls for 75 percent of money collected through differential tuition to stay in the college to directly benefit the students in that college and to ensure the totality of the student experience is of the highest quality. The remaining 25 percent of differential tuition in each college will be used for financial aid for students in the college to reduce the impact of the new tuition structure. Course fees would be eliminated or significantly reduced for students in both colleges.

For the Haworth College of Business, the plan would only apply to students in their junior and senior years. Those students would be assessed a $40 per-credit-hour differential tuition rate, in addition to the resident or nonresident rate already in place for the academic year. The per-semester impact for a full time student taking 15 credit hours would be $600. An average of $15 in fees would be eliminated each semester.

For the College of Fine Arts, the plan would apply to all students beginning with their freshman year. They would be assessed a $50 per-credit-hour rate in addition to the applicable resident or nonresident tuition rate charged universitywide. The per-semester impact for a full-time student taking 15 credit hours would be $750. Per-semester fee reductions would average $107.

Differential tuition is common in research universities nationwide, including those in Michigan. Such initiatives are common in business and engineering colleges and less so in fine arts programs, but Merrion notes that the high cost of programs in the arts make it a logical place to launch such an initiative.

The Haworth College of Business plans to use the additional funding generated by differential tuition to reduce undergraduate class sizes and increase student opportunities by hiring additional faculty and advisers, support key student services such as the Haworth College of Business Career Center, and strengthen undergraduate curricular programs.

For the College of Fine Arts, officials say the funding will be used to sustain the distinctive qualities of its internationally known and professionally accredited programs. Funding will assure students study with the highest quality professors, and have substantive interaction with visiting artists and professionals in the industry to move their careers forward. Additional areas to benefit students include travel support to participate in workshops, institutes and conferences; technology-embedded curricula; small class size; individual mentoring; and personalized advising.

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Media contact: Cheryl Roland, (269) 387-8400, cheryl.roland@wmich.edu

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