Tuesday, March 20, 2001

Board rejects tuition based on course load

By Mark R. Chellgren
The Associated Press

        RICHMOND, Ky. — The Council on Postsecondary Education on Monday effectively shelved a proposal that would have changed the way universities and colleges compute student tuition.

        The proposal put forth by the council's staff would have set tuition based on the number of credit hours taken by each student. And it would also have required universities to have different tuition levels for Kentucky residents and out-of-state students.

        Most universities now charge full-time students — generally considered to be those taking 12 credit hours or more a semester — a flat rate regardless of how many classes a student is taking. Part-time students are generally charged tuition based on their course load.

        And while many universities charge different tuition rates depending on residence, many also impose lower, in-state, rates for students from selected areas near their campuses.

        The council formerly set tuition at all state-run institutions but gave that authority to institutional governing boards beginning with the current school year. As a result, tuition rates have diverged.

        Eastern Kentucky University will charge $1,167 as in-state tuition for a full-time undergraduate in the coming fall semester while Morehead State will charge $1,070. The council previously set the same rate for both.

        Northern Kentucky University President Dr. James Votruba, who argued for letting the universities set their own rates, said tuition has become an important factor in competing with other universities.

        “This is one of the advantages of local control of pricing strategies,” Dr. Votruba told council members.

        Dr. Votruba said after the meeting that the university board has decided to forgo a previously approved increase in out-of-state tuition for next year because of competition.

        “In the old days, you set your tuition and you forget about it. Now, price is so important,” Dr. Votruba said after the meeting.

        Dr. Votruba said Northern tries to be competitive with the Uni versity of Cincinnati, which draws from the same pool of prospective students.

        Council member Merl Hackbart, who works at the University of Kentucky, said UK already has a problem getting full-time students to graduate and charging them by the course might make that even harder. “There certainly is an incentive for students to take additional courses,” Mr. Hackbart said.

        “We're providing an obstacle, at least a fiscal obstacle, to the full-time student,” added Glasgow resident Walter Baker, chairman of the council finance committee.

        Eastern Kentucky President Robert Kustra said university boards can now adopt a tuition schedule based on course load, which Dr. Votruba acknowledged NKU is considering.

        “I don't think we're ready for this right now,” Mr. Kustra said.

        Council member Hilda Legg of Somerset said setting a rigid standard for out-of-state tuition may work against the state as it tries to attract and keep bright students. “I don't know that we want to be exclusionary,” Ms. Legg said.

        The council did not reject the proposal outright but said only further discussion might take place in the summer.


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