UW considers block tuition as community colleges abandon it

By JEFF VICTOR Laramie Boomerang Via Wyoming News Exchange

LARAMIE -- A recently published capacity study detailing the University of Wyoming’s ability to grow recommended UW make tuition cheaper for out-of-state students, especially those enrolled in online courses.
The study’s author, Rose Martinelli of Huron Consulting Group, suggested an additional alteration to the university’s tuition rates during the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday.
“We also would like to make a further recommendation that is somewhat beyond our study, but also provides enormous benefit to families and to the institution and also optimizes student progression,” she said.
“And that is setting an undergraduate block tuition.”
Currently, UW students pay by the credit hour, so a full-time student enrolled in the minimum 12 credit hours pays less in tuition and fees than another full-time student taking 15 credits. An in-state student taking 15 credits will pay roughly $1,600 a semester in tuition and fees, before room, board and textbooks, according to UW’s website, which also notes the price will vary with credit hours taken.
Adopting block tuition would establish one full-time tuition rate, shared by all full-time students, whether they take 12, 15 or 18 credit hours or anything in between.
UW used to offer block tuition but stopped doing so during the 2003-2004 academic year. Martinelli said reintroducing the practice would encourage UW students to take fuller semesters.
“It starts to accelerate degree completion,” she said. “It provides opportunities for students to experiment with courses outside of their area of major. It provides us with real, predictable revenue projections, in terms of planning. And it provides families with a way of planning how much it will cost for my son or daughter to complete a degree at the University of Wyoming.”
Trustee David Fall said he supported a return to block tuition.
“I really like the idea,” he said. “(If) after 12 credits you pay a block amount, that would drive students to take 15 credits a semester — which is what they need to get out in four years.”
Martinelli’s study included a survey of prospective students in Colorado and Nebraska, which found uncertainty regarding the price of a degree was the top reason high school students from those states did not consider UW.
“This is a very important recommendation,” Martinelli said. “One that is increasingly adopted nationwide as price constraints continue to rise — how do we help students and their families get a better sense of the true cost of education.”
But even as UW considers block tuition, Wyoming’s seven community colleges — for which tuition is set by the state’s Community College Commission — are moving in the opposite direction.
While the colleges currently offer block tuition — charging one price for students taking anywhere from 12-20 credits — they will begin charging all students by the credit-hour during the fall 2018 semester, said Jim Rose, the commission’s executive director.
“It really was looked at as being not the best way to equitably assess tuition, so the commission elected to remove that,” he said. “If they have that luxury, if they’re not working a full-time job and they’re able to enroll full-time, they’re going to pay a price for tuition that’s commensurate with that condition.”
Rose said block tuition could work better for the university than the colleges, where the part-time student majority ends up subsidizing the full-time students taking advantage of block tuition.
“It makes sense if all your students are full-time,” he said. “So, then they have this very simple number they know they’re going to have to pay to enroll. If they enroll in 15 credits, or 18 credits, or whatever, they’re still paying the same block amount. The problem we have is we have such a significant proportion of our students being part-time.”
Ending block tuition could discourage full-time students previously enrolled in more than 12 credit hours to drop down to the minimum, but Rose said it was difficult to know if that would occur.
“The other thing that’s difficult here is 12 credits is a sort of vestige of an earlier time when 12 was considered to be full-time,” Rose said. “For all intents and purposes, it’s not full-time. To get an associate’s degree, most are 60 credits or slightly more. If you divide that up by four semesters, you’re not going to get it with 12 units a semester — 15 is really the minimum now and so that recognition also played into this.”
Martinelli’s recommendation for UW was to offer undergraduate full-time block tuition for students taking 12-18 credit hours as a way of pursuing the university’s goal of improving its four-year graduation rate and offering prospective students a clearer picture of the price of a degree.
The trustees did not vote on the matter but Board Treasurer John McKinley said the board would seek public comment before acting on the capacity study’s tuition recommendations.


Glenrock Independent

Physical Address:506 W. Birch, Glenrock, WY 82637 Mailing Address: PO Box 109, Douglas, WY 82633 Phone: (307) 436-2211

The Glenrock Independent is located in the Bronco Building

Office hours: Monday, Wednesday, Friday - 10:00 a.m. to 2 p.m. Tuesday, Thursday - 9:30 a.m. - 1:30 p.m.

Subscriber Login