The Norman Transcript

September 22, 2013

President Boren, students and parents weigh in on Flat rate tuition

By Katherine Parker
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — University of Oklahoma students and President David Boren suggest mixed reviews on OU’s new flat-rate tuition policy as beginning of the year excitement settles down and the university marches toward fall break and midterms. At the end of June, OU announced its plan to adopt a flat-rate tuition policy based on OU’s 15-credit hour rate for tuition and not increase in-state tuition. Under the new policy, students can enroll in up to 21 hours and pay for only 15. However, the same goes for students who enroll in only 12 hours; they too must pay for 15 hours.

Half of the schools in the Big 12 already have flat-rate tuition, including Baylor University, University of Texas and Texas A&M University. Additionally, most of the Big Ten universities have flat-rate tuition plans. President Boren said the change in OU’s tuition policy would support the university’s goal of helping students graduate sooner while getting the best value for their tuition fees and dollars.

“The new tuition plan is going very well,” President Boren said as he addressed regents at the regent’s board meeting on Wednesday. “I think above the 99 percent level of parents have come up to me in support of the change.”

Although the numbers aren’t official, Matt Hamilton, OU vice president for enrollment and student financial services registrar, said information from Institutional Research reports that enrollment in 15 or more hours has increased about 12 percent compared to last year. Hamilton attributes part of this increase to the newly developed Work Assistance Scholarship program in conjunction with the flat-rate tuition policy.

“It provided additional scholarship funds to students who documented work patterns of 25 or more hours per week. About 120 students received the scholarship so they could decrease their work hours and increase their credit hours,” Hamilton said.

In addition to the Work Assistance Scholarship program, President Boren said the university studied other univeristies’ implementation of similar policies, such that OU could learn from their trial and error and bring the best flat-rate tuition policy to students and parents.

“We watched other schools and decided we needed to give our students options,” Boren said. “Students can take interim courses, summer courses and online classes.”

Such options allow a student who enrolls in less than 30 credit hours through the end of a spring semester to take summer hours without paying additional tuition and mandatory fees.

Yet students and parents are still not sure the flate-rate tuition policy really benefits them. Charles Martin, of Norman, said as a parent paying the bills, he didn’t care for the change because his daughter, Chelsea Martin, a senior at OU didn’t need to take so many hours her senior year.

“Because of her major, my daughter had taken a lot of summer courses to meet her pre-reqs, so she only needs to take 12 hours to graduate, but I have to pay for extra hours,” he said.

Martin also wasn’t sure students would really benefit from the touted 21 hour maximum.

“What student can really take 21 hours and actually maintain a social life and be involved in campus?” Martin questioned.

Martin may be right that most students will not take more than 15 hours. Melody Vidmar, a sophomore and anthropology and pre-law major, said she had only been planning on taking 12 hours per semester the rest of her time at OU.

“I’m ahead in my major, so I was just planning on taking 12 hours, but now I’ll probably take 15 every semester,” Vidmar said. “Maybe I’ll take parents are paying for my education, so I’d rather take a blow-off class than have them pay for me taking nothing at all.”

Fellow sophomore Becca Walton said she didn’t have any problem with the change.

“I’ve always taken 15 credit hours, so I’ll just keep doing the same.”

Freshman Chloe Holt, Madeline Leathers and Amanda Helm spouted similar thoughts of no concern and an easy going attitude regarding flate-rate tuition. Helm said she planned on taking 15 hours every semester and was just going to go with the flow, and while Holt agreed, she added that she thought it would motivate her to graduate sooner.

OU does offer exemptions to students from the flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees in the situation it is not possible or advisable for a student to take 15 hours of credit. Hamilton explained a student needing fewer than 15 hours to graduate or a student studying abroad without access to 15 hours of credit might qualify for such an exemption. So far the university has had approximately over 600 appeal petitions filed with more than 500 of those appeals granted, Hamilton said.

Junior Kristen Cash, a human relations major, said she was counting on such an exemption.

“So far the change hasn’t negatively affected me,” Cash said. “But my senior year, I’ll only need to take nine hours each semester, so I plan to appeal.”

Even though there are so many varying opinions on flat-rate tuition, students said they are adapting, and the university said it is happy about its decision.

“Even though it’s too early to know if we’ve gained revenue from the flat-rate tuition policy, overall this is a winning situation,” Boren said.

Katherine Parker