By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript
ARDMORE — University of Oklahoma regents approved sweeping tuition and fee changes Monday in the hopes of generating scholarship funds and graduation rates.
A prominent facet of the university’s Fiscal Year 2014 budget approved Monday, students carrying between 12 and 21 credit hours will be charged a flat tuition rate based upon OU’s current rate for 15 credit hours.
“Ever since I arrived and especially in recent years, costs for students and their families has risen steadily and I’ve been trying to think about ways to reduce the total cost of getting a college degree for students, and one way is to ensure students graduate in four years instead of five or six,” OU President David Boren said. “If you graduate in four years instead of five or six, savings average somewhere between $26,000 and $30,000.”
The new tuition policy is not an increase for in-state tuition rate for full-time undergraduate students, but those who enroll in less than 15 hours will pay more than they would have previously, where students who elect to enroll in more than 15 hours will pay less.
Out-of-state undergraduate tuition will increase 5.2 percent, averaging $552 more for the academic year.
“We will give flexibility to students and calculate this on 30 hours per academic year, not hours per semester. Thirty hours a year puts a student on track for four-year graduation, and that’s extremely important for saving money, reaching our graduation goals and meeting the governor’s goals for increasing graduation rates in Oklahoma,” Boren said.
In addition to incentivizing the 30-hour year with flat-rate tuition, the approved flat rate plan will cover summer and winter intersession courses.
“Students may reach their 30-hour year by picking up intersession courses. They can configure the hour distribution however they choose; we want to give them options,” Boren said.
A major concern addressed in the plan’s discussion and approval was accommodating students who must work part- or full-time jobs while completing their degrees. Since the adoption of the flat-rate plan will generate some revenue for the university, Boren said these funds will be directed into a scholarship fund for those students who wish to speed up their graduation and need extra financial support.
“Currently, our best estimate is between $2 and $3 million in revenue,” Boren said. “We know that 3,400 students work on campus and most of them are in the 20-hour range for work schedule. It’s extremely difficult to gauge how many students have off-campus jobs and how many hours they’re working, so we’re making help for working students priority No. 1,” Boren said.
Students eligible for work scholarships must be working a minimum of 25 hours per week and wishing to meet the 30-hour-year goal.
“I have a strong feeling for these students. I have students in my class who work 40 and 50 hours per week. This isn’t the average, but it’s a significant number of the student body that needs consideration,” Boren said. “The financial help of scholarships will hopefully allow these students to reduce their work hours and focus on coursework.”
An appeals process for the tuition rate is possible for students in extreme cases.
Fee changes made under the regents’ motion included a housing and food services fee increase of 4 percent for residence hall room and board rates and a 3 percent increase for campus apartments, translating into $168 per semester and $15 to $26 per month, respectively.
“I think this plan keeps us on the forefront of where I believe we should be. We join a majority of public universities in the Big 12,” Boren said.
For more information on the flat-rate tuition policy, visit ou.edu/flat-rate.