April 10, 2008

Business students will pay differential tuition

by Christi Mathis

CARBONDALE, Ill. — The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees, meeting in Edwardsville, today (April 10) approved differential tuition for College of Business and Administration students on the Carbondale campus.

While the additional charge appears to be a 15-percent tuition increase for graduate and undergraduate students, the phase-out of an existing fee that business majors currently pay will offset a portion of the increase. The actual increase students will see is considerably less and J. Dennis Cradit, dean of the college, anticipates students will benefit from the differential tuition in numerous ways.

For the current school year, SIUC students paid $211.60 per credit hour. Trustees today approved a 9.9 percent tuition increase, to $232.50 per hour, for the 2008-09 school year. Beginning this fall, new declared business majors will pay $267.38 per credit hour, a differential tuition increase of $34.88 per semester hour. However, as the higher tuition differential rate is phased in beginning with new students this fall, the college will also begin phasing out the additional $6 per hour technology fee business college students have been paying.

"Every penny of the differential tuition will go toward student services," Cradit pledged.

The differential tuition will apply to all declared College of Business and Administration majors, freshmen through seniors, beginning with the incoming class of 2008-2009, and with transfer students in accordance with the University's Guaranteed Tuition Stabilization Plan.

"We understand that some students may try to delay the process of declaring their majors to avoid the surcharge, but we will institute procedures that will restrict access to business classes to those students until they declare a major," Cradit said. "The exception will be if the student has a previously approved relationship with another college. We want to ensure that everyone is treated equitably."

He said the additional funds will facilitate improvements in a number of areas, including technology in the classroom, student financial assistance, advising services, career preparation and placement, retention programs, student experience and curriculum enhancement.

Efforts to upgrade classroom technology with the soon-to-be-eliminated $6 technology fee will continue with a portion of the differential tuition funds. Plans are in the works for expanded hours and off-campus services relative to existing advisement services. Also planned are additional career preparation and placement seminars to expand intern and extern recruitment efforts. The funds will enhance and improve mentoring and tutoring programs and improve student training programs as well, Cradit said.

Faculty and staff will use some of the funding in new and innovative ways to enhance their curriculum to better prepare students for the current job market. While students currently receive an outstanding classroom education, they also need soft skills such as expertise in making presentations, leadership skills and the like and that's something the enhanced curriculum will address, Cradit said.

In addition, the college is setting aside a portion of the funding, perhaps about 20 percent, for financial assistance to the business students who are most in need so they can continue their education and reach their career aspirations, Cradit said.

He said he met with students and student groups on at least 18 occasions to discuss the differential tuition. He solicited feedback on the increase and its uses from them and from faculty and staff.

The college has utilized that input in its plans. The two major concerns expressed by students were the possible financial hardship for some business students due to the higher tuition and fears of an adverse effect on enrollment. The designation of a significant portion of the funds to assist the most financially vulnerable students is in response to one concern.

Regarding the other, the effect on enrollment, Cradit said SIUC officials aren't particularly concerned for a number of reasons, including the involvement of students in how the money will be spent and the benefit students will themselves realize from a superior education. He said many other universities already have some form of differential tuition or fee structure, including the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Kentucky, Arkansas, Memphis, Missouri at Columbia, Kansas State, Clemson and West Virginia, to name a few.

"It's very common within colleges of business," Cradit said. "We're confident this will deliver a better degree and prepare students better and when that happens the word will get around.

It could initially have a negative impact on business enrollment but in evaluating what's happened at other schools, the effect on the enrollment is actually positive in the long run. With the higher tuition we're creating a genuine value. Business students particularly realize that you get what you pay for and this funding will demonstrate its value with an enhanced degree."

Fall undergraduate enrollment for the College of Business and Administration totaled 1,573, with spring enrollment of 1,471, largely reflective of a large number graduating in the fall. Spring graduate student enrollment is 171.

Cradit anticipates creation of an oversight committee comprised of faculty and students to serve in an advisory role regarding how the differential tuition funds are spent.