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New tuition model lowers price of online courses

By Danielle Manley
On April 9, 2014

Tier I and Tier II tuition will increase because of decisions made during the 2014 session of the Utah Legislature, but USU recently updated its tuition model to make classes cheaper for students.

Starting summer semester 2014, two tuition changes will be implemented. The first is that online courses will be charged the same rate as regular courses, instead of paying an increased rate on top of tuition like before.

“This was an initiative that was sparked by what would help students and what’s in their best interest,” said Robert Wagner, vice provost for Regional Campuses and Distance Education.

The second change involves lowering the plateau for tuition. Currently, students taking anywhere from 13 to 18 credits pay the same tuition and fees. The plateau has been lowered from 13 credits to 12 credits. Tuition and fees will be consistent for students taking 12 to 18 credits, even if they add online courses.

The change came after evaluating online course enrollment over the past two to three years.

“There was interest on the part of the university administration to be able to help students, to be able to assist them,” Wagner said. “We understand a lot of students take online courses ... to speed up their time to graduation. From an administrative perspective, we saw a growing need.”

Nathan Booth, a sophomore studying mechanical engineering, works in the Distance Education center as a facilitator and sees the change as a positive move.

“I think it’s helpful for future students, and maybe it will be helpful for me in the future to know that there isn’t anything in the way of having that flexibility,” he said.

Booth took his first online class last year for a general USU credit.

“With the schedule I had, it was more convenient to take the online class,” Booth said. “I just struggled with whether I wanted to do that or whether I wanted a weird schedule just because the online classes were more expensive.”

Online courses previously could be as expensive as $500 to $600 because students were charged a per-credit rate on top of the normal tuition paid.

The new online course rate only applies to in-state tuition students. Students who pay out-of-state tuition and take online courses will continue to pay the old rate.

“It is the in-state students that are usually taking both face-to-face and online courses,” Wagner said. “Those are the students most affected. Most of the USU students that are out of state are taking online only courses.”

Wagner said the main focus was to help those students combining traditional courses with online courses.

“The focus was to really help the students paying both of those rates so they would only have to pay one rate,” he said.

Casey Saxton, USU Student Association Public Relations and Marketing director, said he’s only taken one online class while at USU but was surprised at the price, though it did include the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business differential tuition.

“I was astonished at how much it costs to take one online class,” Saxton said. “I think it was over $1,000, and that was with the first-time online student discount they give.”

Saxton thinks the tuition plateau change will be beneficial for him and other students.

“The former model disincentivized students to take more credits,” he said. “You’re considered full-time at 12 credits, but the way the system is set up, you have to take about 15 credits to graduate in four years.”

Saxton said he’s received only positive feedback from students.

“Really, it makes a ton of sense,” he said. “It doesn’t end up being a whole lot of money, but a few hundred dollars is significant, especially to a college student.”

Wagner is excited for the future benefit to students.

“One of the messages that this sends is that USU knows that many students want and need to take their university courses in a variety of ways — ways that fit their schedule, ways that fit their lives,” Wagner said. “Whether it’s a face-to-face course, a broadcast course, an online course, USU provides a variety of ways for students to meet their educational goals. Now we’re making it more efficient.”

- daniellekmanley@gmail.com
Twitter: @daniellekmanley

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