Regents approve sweeping tuition structure changes; $12.9M budget
In a move reflecting nationwide concerns over the cost of a college degree, the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma’s Board of Regents approved a new flat rate tuition and mandatory fee structure for the 2014-15 academic year.
The change was approved at the Regents’ meeting at the university on June 10.
Full-time students enrolled in 12-18 credit hours will be charged $3,135 per trimester.
The new flat rate is based on 15 credit hours per trimester and is similar to models utilized by many public and private institutions of higher education nationwide.
According to university officials, the shift to the new flat rate model encourages students to graduate in a shorter amount of time, spend less to earn their degrees and is in line with the Complete College America initiatives championed by Governor Mary Fallin and supported by the State Regents of Higher Education.
Dr. Dex Marble, vice-president for academic affairs at the university, said that the change incentivizes behavior that will benefit students in the long run.
“Simply put, it is next to impossible for a student taking only 12 hours per term to graduate in four years or less, even taking full advantage of USAO’s unique trimester program,” Marble said. “The longer they stay, the more debt they will possibly accrue.”
Marble said that 15 hours had been the baseline for full-time status historically. As more students began to utilize federal financial aid to go to college, the number drifted back to 12 so that students could drop a class without losing full-time status.
“This new flat tuition structure encourages students who might be tempted to enroll in the minimum hours to obtain full-time status to take that extra class because, frankly, they are paying for it anyway,” Marble said.
“It also incentivizes highly motivated students to take on a more rigorous schedule of 18 hours as they will be getting a class at essentially no cost.”
Students enrolled in more than 18 credit hours will be charged the flat rate plus the per credit hour rate, for each credit over 18 enrolled hours.
Students enrolled in less than 12 credit hours will be charged the per credit hour rate.
These rates apply to Oklahoma residents only. Nonresident students will be charged a flat rate tuition of $7,605 per trimester.
Regents pass $12.9M budget
In addition, the Board of Regents approved a $12.9 million budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year. The budget includes an 8.3% increase in tuition and fees that will cover mandatory cost increases.
Mike Coponiti, Vice President for Business and Finance, said the tuition increase was a necessity for the USAO budget to remain intact while covering mandatory cost increases.
“The biggest drivers of increased expenditures include the rise of health insurance, property insurance and utility costs – all which are out of our control,” he said.
“Tuition increases generate revenue for the university which will enable us to continue our day-to-day operations, provide a slight salary increase for our faculty and staff, and cover these mandatory cost increases.”
Student groups were consulted about the proposed tuition increases and were supportive of the efforts to protect the quality of academic instruction and student support services.
Coponiti further said that the transition to flat-rate tuition would make a positive impact on USAO.
“Having a student body that graduates faster will strengthen our retention and graduation rates,” said Coponiti.
The tuition and fee increase will amount to an additional $240 per trimester per student.
Despite the increase, the cost to attend USAO remains in the bottom 70 percentile of public liberal arts universities nationwide.
Regents elected a new chair for the coming year and expressed thanks to outgoing Chairwoman Hilary Kitz, of Tulsa. The new chair is Regent David McLaughlin, of Enid. The new vice chair is Regent Chris Mosley of Chickasha. New board secretary is Regent Mo Anderson, of Edmond.
Regent Molly Tolbert, of Oklahoma City, attended her final meeting. She was appointed in 2006 by Gov. Brad Henry to fill the unexpired term of the late Malyne Hilburn. Diane Ming of Edmond, will be sworn in at the next Board of Regents meeting.
In personnel matters, the board approved the appointment of Rachel Jones as an assistant professor of biology. Jones holds a master of science in botany from the University of Wyoming and is expected to complete her doctorate this year.
Joyce Horton was approved as the administrative assistant for the office of university advancement. Horton holds a bachelor of science in organizational leadership from Southern Nazarene University.
A resignation was accepted from Jason Sherman, systems librarian.
The Regents approved Becky Fleming, CPA, Inc. to perform the external audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2014. Fleming was chosen from a pool of 10 accounting firms in 2012, and is eligible to be retained for services of up of five consecutive fiscal years.
The board also approved the purchase of 42 computers to replace existing equipment as part of a computer cycling plan in place since the early 1990s.
The Board of Regents is scheduled to meet next on September 9.