KALAMAZOO, Mich.—After years of across-the-board tuition adjustments that left out-of-state students paying more than twice what Michigan students pay, Western Michigan University trustees voted Jan. 24 to cap nonresident tuition for future undergraduates in a way that will dramatically reduce the tuition bills for incoming nonresidents and make WMU more competitive internationally.
Beginning with the summer I session in May 2017, basic, main-campus tuition rates for newly admitted nonresident students will be set at 1.25 times the rate that Michigan residents pay. That means that at 2016-17 basic tuition rates, annual tuition and required fees for a nonresident freshman or sophomore would be nearly cut in half—down to $14,366 from its current cost of $26,851. Tuition for 2017-18 has not yet been set. The move has no impact on tuition rates for graduate students or Michigan undergraduates.
For currently enrolled nonresident students, basic tuition and fees will remain at their current ratio, but such students will continue to be eligible for the scholarships and financial aid packages that have helped them trim the cost of attendance in the past. Also, a liberal residency policy that many students use to become Michigan residents and qualify for in-state rates will continue in force for any student now or previously enrolled. Beginning with the upcoming summer I session, new nonresident undergraduate students will not have the option of changing their residency status at WMU. In related action, trustees approved that adjustment to the University's residency policy.
"Historically, tuition and required fees for on-campus, nonresident undergraduates have increased at the same percentage as resident rates," says Jan Van Der Kley, vice president for business and finance. "Over time, this practice has caused an enormous disparity in the dollar amount increases for nonresident undergraduate rates."
A boost to enrollment
Despite extensive scholarship and financial aid assistance in place for nonresidents, the published nonresident tuition rate for a first-time student is at 2.3 times the rate charged to Michigan students, so the University is no longer perceived to be as competitive as some other Michigan colleges and universities in states WMU has targeted for enrollment growth, Van Der Kley told the WMU board.
Taking the rate down to 1.25 times the in-state rate puts WMU in good position to compete for out-of-state students. International enrollment as well will be positively enhanced by the new nonresident rate.
"WMU will continue to recruit any and all qualified Michigan residents," Van Der Kley notes, "but the declining number of Michigan high school graduates over the coming years means the University will need to target nonresident populations to maintain enrollment numbers that allow it to operate at maximum efficiency."
The number of new high school graduates in Michigan is expected to plunge more than 18 percent by 2028, Van Der Kley explains. With the decline already well underway, she says, WMU has begun to boost its nonresident enrollment but will need to recruit larger numbers of nonresidents as time goes on.
"As we move into this new tuition model, we've taken the steps necessary to maintain financial aid and residency eligibility for our current nonresident students," Van Der Kley notes. "The new basic rates that are set at 1.25 times resident rates will align incoming nonresident student costs with the net effective costs our current nonresidents are paying after financial aid packages are factored in. We'll be able to recruit students with a more reasonable published nonresident cost that leaves a more favorable perception and keeps us in the mix when those students are making their college selection."
Nonresident students make up early 16 percent of WMU's total student enrollment, a 10 percent increase from a decade ago.
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