North Texas Daily

New tuition plan proves popular

New tuition plan proves popular

New tuition plan proves popular
October 06
23:36 2014

Rhiannon Saegert / Senior Staff Writer

Thousands of new and returning students have opted into Eagle Express, the alternative tuition plan with locked-in rates and a $4,000 financial incentive to students who finish their degree in four years.

Institutional research director Mary Barton said 4,711 students have opted into the new tuition plan as of the census date: 2,112 are freshmen, 1,279 are sophomores, 760 are juniors and 560 are seniors. This comprises about half of the incoming freshman class. University President Neal Smatresk, who pushed for the plan, had only hoped for 20 percent.

Faculty senate chair James Conover said the plan may have to be modified because of its popularity.

“Now we know it’s 50 percent, so they would have to change what the fees would be for the incoming students next cycle, I would guess,” Conover said. “The next batch wouldn’t necessarily have the same locked-in price.”

He said for students who change their major or don’t realize how many prerequisite classes they need, finishing a degree in four years to earn the $4,000 can prove difficult.

“It’s about what happens in that final semester or that final year, as you’re trying to figure out how many classes or how many credits you need to qualify for the incentives,” Conover said. “What if you miss by three credit hours?”

Conover said some students may not be prepared for the workload finishing in four years would create, and the plan is safer for students who are unlikely to switch majors.

“We have a population of students who want to do this. They’re motivated, they know where they want to be and they won’t change majors,” Conover said. “That’s not our traditional UNT student. Students usually change majors one or two times.”

Conover said there would be some changes to how departments are funded, but they would be at the administrative level, not the faculty level. He said the plans make little difference to faculty members, who won’t even know which students are on which tuition plan.

“Eagle Express, I think, collects it all as one batch of money and then distributes it out to the departments as it would have happened,” Conover said. “So my understanding is the differential will be made up by the university. Me, as a faculty member, I just tell them what I need.”

Smatresk said adjustments were part of the plan for the first year, and the school would be open to adjustments if they are obviously necessary.

“We’re running an experiment in progress here. And when you’re running an experiment, it doesn’t make sense to be too rigid,” he said. “Everybody is surfacing issues, and that’s what’s supposed to happen. We’re going to find out where we’re ready and where we’re not, and we’re going to fix it.”

Smatresk said the financial models he and Vice Provost for Academic Resources Allen Clark ran for this were assuming 20 percent of freshmen opted in, and said he will need to run the numbers again for 50 percent. However, he believes that this plan will still increase retention and graduation rates enough to be beneficial to the university.

“The numbers can’t get worse from this,” he said.

While part of the idea is that students on the plan will be tripping over themselves to meet the deadline and receive the award, the fact is most students don’t think about tuition. Mechanical and energy engineering freshman Corbin Coralli said he simply picked the cheapest route.

“The 3.9 percent increase [in regular tuition] every year is a daunting thing,” he said. “To be honest, when I signed up, I wasn’t really sure what the plans were. I just signed up for the one with some sort of rebate.”

Featured Illustration: Administrators were expecting 20 percent of the freshmen class to opt in to the new Eagle Express Tuition Plan, but instead, 50 percent did. Illustration by Jake Bowerman – Senior Staff Illustrator

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