Old habits under

Nichol Nelson

Administrators on Thursday proposed major changes in the cost of tuition designed to keep students on a four-year graduation track under the upcoming semester system.
Peter Zetterberg, director of the Office of Planning and Analysis, used pictures of pancake stacks to illustrate how students who take more than 12 credits will receive a price break.
“If there are more than 12 pancakes in a stack, then the rest are half price,” said Zetterberg.
The tuition plan was proposed at Thursday’s Board of Regents meeting. Regents will vote on the plan in March.
The proposal makes the first 12 undergraduate credits $154.50 each, but lowers the cost of any additional credits to $77.25.
So if a student takes a 15 credit load, the price will be $2085.75, which is $231.75 less than what it would cost without the discount — $2317.50.
Crashing credit loads
The reduction in credit price is an attempt to keep students from dropping credit loads under semesters.
Under quarters, most students take three or four courses comprised of mostly four-credit classes; or 12 to 16 credits per quarter. With the advent of semesters in the fall, many administrators fear students will continue to take three or four courses. But since most semester courses are only worth three credits, students’ total credit load will drop to nine to 12 credits.
“It’s a very real threat,” Zetterberg said. “Our challenge is to try to minimize it.”
Student credit load averages have been on the rise for the past five years, jumping from 12.8 credits in 1993 to 13.4 in 1998. Zetterberg said this rise is jeopardized by the change to semesters.
“Students who schedule three or four classes around work, et cetera, are not going to take five without significant incentive,” Zetterberg said.
The drop in credit loads could spell financial trouble for the University, said Bob Bruininks, executive vice president and provost. He said the University stands to lose $15 million to $18 million in tuition revenue and state appropriations if student credit loads drop by even 3 to 5 percent.
Rather than simply raising the cost of tuition to make up the loss, administrators chose to give students incentives to take more credits.
Student savings
Tuition would actually decrease for most students under the new plan. But those who do not take 12 credits will pay more for their education than full-time students.
Administrators estimate that freshmen who entered the University in 1997 will save $700 with the new tuition structure if they graduate in four years.
If they choose a five-year track, their savings will be $1,200, but the savings would be offset by the cost of the additional year.
Taking 15 credits per semester for four years will cost $16,668; taking 12 credits per semester for five years will cost $18,540. Students will save 10 percent by taking a full credit load.
The new plan would also eliminate base tuition, a $62 quarterly charge that all students pay in addition to their credit costs.
Board members started the base tuition as a way to charge more per credit for part-time students, but now wants to focus on more “positive” incentive measures like the reduced tuition plan.
The Graduate School will also be affected by the new tuition plan.
Under the new plan, graduate students will be able to take four semester courses for the same price as two.
The proposal changes the tuition band from the current seven to 14 credits to six to 14 credits in the Graduate School.
A tuition band is a set number of credits for which students pay a flat fee.
With the lower end of the band at six credits, the cost of a third or fourth course is free. This provides a strong financial incentive for graduate students to take more courses.
The tuition plan is not yet finalized; regents will vote on it in March. The meeting provided an opportunity for regents to question Zetterberg about specifics.
Regent William Hogan II expressed concern that the new plan might penalize working students who cannot take on more class hours.
“This is a work environment,” Hogan said. “We need to work with Zetterberg and (University) President Yudof to ask questions about what will happen to working students.”