University of California President Janet Napolitano is re-evaluating the UC’s tuition policy to better reflect student needs and increase fiscal sustainability, but she has not yet decided on which tuition payment option to use.
Napolitano said she plans to freeze tuition for the 2014-2015 year, which would be the third year in a row the University has kept tuition constant.
In previous years the University raised tuition significantly after the state cut $900 million from its funds. Since the 2008-2009 academic year, the University raised its tuition from about $6,200 to about $11,200 for in-state undergraduate students.
“I want tuition to be as low as possible, and I want it to be as predictable as possible,” Napolitano said at a UC Board of Regents meeting in November.
In a recent Google Hangout with students from various UC campuses, students asked Napolitano to talk about her current work in reforming the UC’s tuition policy.
They also asked Napolitano how she plans to include student ideas in the reorganization of the tuition plan. Napolitano did not specify how student input would be considered, but maintained that it was important to the eventual decision.
The University of California’s current tuition policy is subject to fluctuation. The UC Board of Regents decides how much tuition is needed each year.
Andrew Carlson, author of a 2013 Survey of State Tuition, Fees and Financial Assistance Policies for Public Colleges and Universities, said any policy the UC is considering will need a lot of research. The survey is sponsored by the State Higher Education Executive Officers Association and addresses how state funding influences tuition programs and policies.
“Each institution is different,” he said. “What works for one may not work for all.”
Dianne Klein, UC spokeswoman, said it is still too early to say what kind of new policy the University will choose.
“Several proposals are being studied and staff here at (the UC Office of the President) are looking at other institutions where different tuition models have been tried,” Klein said. “The president believes strongly that, especially at a public university, tuition must be affordable for all students and their families.”
Colleges and universities use widely different tuition policies based on each institution’s sustainability factors:
Idea: This option freezes tuition for a class of students – a cohort – for the four years of their academic careers. In other words, tuition will not rise for a student during the length of his or her college education. Subsequent classes may experience changes in tuition, yet the cost will remain the same as when they first entered the university.
Napolitano has mentioned cohort tuition as a potential policy option for the UC in the past.
Used at: University of Colorado Boulder (for non-state residents only), University of Illinois
Idea: Institutions that utilize this policy alter tuition rates based on program-based and credit-based factors. Programs with higher-cost curricula charge higher tuition. For example, an engineering student would pay higher tuition than an English student.
Used at: University of Arizona, University of Wisconsin
Idea: Schools following this policy provide tuition incentives for various academic achievements. For example, tuition can be lowered for taking certain courses or maintaining a high GPA. This option evaluates student tuition on an individual basis.
Used at: University College of Syracuse University
Idea: This policy lets students pay their tuition after they graduate, allowing time to secure employment and financial stability before paying off their debt. Students receive their education for free while they are enrolled in school.
Students commenting in the Google Hangout suggested pay-it-forward as a policy for Napolitano to consider, but Napolitano warned the payment plan might not be feasible for the UC.
“While it sounds like a good idea, the high costs of administration raises concerns about its sustainability,” Napolitano said.
Used at: University of Oregon
Idea: Many state universities offer lower tuition for in-state residents, but colleges with reciprocal tuition policies also offer lower rates to students who come from neighboring states or institutions with which the colleges have reciprocal agreements.
Compiled by Trevor Cleere, Bruin contributor.