The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — With the goal of increasing the four-year graduation rate and saving students and families thousands of dollars by graduating in four years, University of Oklahoma President David Boren announced Thursday that OU plans to implement flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees for full-time undergraduate students carrying between 12 and 21 credit hours per semester to enable them to graduate sooner. Boren also announced that the university will not raise in-state tuition this year.
Pending approval by the OU Board of Regents and the State Regents for Higher Education, flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees would go into effect in fall 2013. Half of the schools in the Big 12 already have flat-rate tuition, including Baylor University, Iowa State University, Texas Christian University, University of Texas and University of West Virginia, as well as Texas A&M University, formerly of the Big 12. Many other public universities, including most of the Big Ten universities, also have flat-rate tuition plans.
The rate is to be based on OU’s current 15-credit hour rate for tuition and mandatory fees. Under the new plan, students could enroll in up to 21 hours and pay for only 15.
“Changing from a per-credit hour basis to a flat rate encourages all of our students to complete their degrees in a shorter period of time and get the best possible value for their tuition and fees dollars,” Boren said.
For example, assuming tuition, fees, books and supplies are the same whether a student completes his or her degree in four, five or six years, that student would incur approximately $13,384 per year for room, board, transportation, and personal and miscellaneous expenses.
Under flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees, he or she would save $13,384 if graduating in four years rather than five and $26,768 if graduating in four years rather than six. Also, students who graduate in four years rather than five or six would be able to enter the work force a year or two earlier.
OU’s adoption of the flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees model supports the goals of the Complete College America initiative embraced and championed by Gov. Mary Fallin and State Regents for Higher Education Chancellor Glen Johnson. Complete College America, the most comprehensive and ambitious higher education initiative ever undertaken by the state of Oklahoma, seeks to increase the number of degrees and certificates earned in the state to 50,900 by 2023.
Other Big 12 institutions have experienced significant increases in their four-year graduation rates after implementing flat-rate tuition. It should help Oklahoma increase per capita incomes and create more high-paying jobs. Nationally, per capita incomes are consistently higher in states with a higher per capita number of college graduates.
In addition to the change to flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees, Boren said the university plans to launch a program for summer 2014 that would grant a credit hour tuition and mandatory fee waiver to students unable to enroll in 15 credit hours for fall 2013 and spring 2014, respectively.
The summer credit hour tuition and mandatory fee waiver would be available for the number of hours not completed in fall and spring. For example, if a student enrolled in 15 hours in fall 2013 and 12 hours in spring 2014, the summer credit hour tuition and mandatory fee waiver would apply to three credit hours.
The summer program would enable students unable to take 15 hours during the fall and spring semesters to opt to participate in the summer program to remain on track to graduate in a shorter time frame and pay a lower overall credit hour rate. By taking the additional credits in the summer, these students can stay on a plan of 30 credit hours per year, allowing them to graduate in four years at no additional cost. Students also could opt to achieve 30 credit hours per year through OU online courses, for which they would not have any additional cost.
An appeals process will be available to students with extraordinary extenuating circumstances who are unable to enroll in 15 credit hours. Boren announced that a pool of at least $1 million will be established to provide additional financial assistance to these students who have to work large numbers of hours each week to attend college.
“We will put great emphasis on helping our students who must work long hours at outside jobs,” Boren said. “Our goal is to provide more scholarship support to those who must work long hours to pay their way through the university. Hopefully, this additional support will allow them to work fewer hours so that they can concentrate on their academic studies,” he said.
Boren also announced new initiatives that have increased the attractiveness of the OU summer session (summer.ou.edu). This summer, for example, the university is offering more than 1,000 classes, including 200 online, as well as housing discounts and some 70 events and activities, such as movies, concerts, sports leagues and a crawfish boil.
In addition to saving students textbook dollars by keeping often-used books on reserve at the library, OU announced annual savings averaging $400 per student in textbook cost as another benefit for students.
OU faculty members have started to develop customized digital alternatives to high-cost textbooks through One University, at ou.edu/oneuniversity, OU’s comprehensive digital initiative. Reading materials are placed online by professors, making it unnecessary for students to buy textbooks.
While $400 in savings per year has now been realized, Boren said he hopes to double or triple the savings over the next four years.
“The goal of all of these measures is to continue to provide OU students with the highest quality of education at the most affordable cost possible,” Boren said. “We hope students will take advantage of this opportunity by enrolling in at least 30 credit hours per year in order to graduate in four years,” he said.
For more information or to learn how students can add classes to their existing enrollment, go to ou.edu/flat-rate or contact the hotline for flat-rate tuition and mandatory fees that has been established through the OU Graduation Office at 325-0841.
The flat-rate will not apply to students enrolled in OU Health Sciences Center undergraduate health-related programs. Students with special circumstances, including those working many hours at outside jobs, should contact the Office of the Bursar at 325-3121 to discuss special arrangements and additional financial support.