USI considers tuition decrease

Jessie Hellmann

 USI is considering reducing the scheduled 5 percent tuition increase for the 2012-2013 school year, said Mark Rozewski, Finance and Administration Vice President.

The 5 percent tuition increase means students would pay $293 more than this years tuition of $5,852.

“Affordability is always on our minds,” Rozewski said. “Whether we’re going to adjust anything one way or another, certainly we’re discussing it.”

The State Budget Committee summoned all university presidents of Indiana to the statehouse to justify tuition increases above that of the Indiana Commission for Higher Education’s (ICHE) recommendations Sept. 8.

Following the hearing, two Indiana schools moved to make school more affordable.

These state universities are Indiana State University (ISU) and Indiana University (IU).

ISU moved from a 3.5 percent increase to a 1.5 increase Oct. 14.

Following ISU, IU announced Oct. 28 it would cut summer tuition by 25 percent for in state residents.

Reducing summer school tuition is one option USI is looking at, Rozewski said.

“It’s absolutely worth looking at and worth looking at very seriously,” Rozewski said.

Rozewski said he does not know how many students will enroll in summer classes because a lot of students work during the summer.

“I think that you have to respect the fact that probably more here than other schools, our students need to work in the summer to afford the following year,” Rozewski said.  “So how many students will actually take us up on it?”

Decreasing summer tuition is not the only option being considered.

“One other option is doing what Indiana State did which is rolling back next years planned increase to some degree or other,” Rozewski said.

Students would only save about $100 a year if the university’s planned tuition increase were reduced, Rozewski said.

Thinking of ways to become more affordable is hard when you’re already the most affordable, Rozewski said.

Despite statewide tuition hikes, USI’s tuition is the lowest among four-year public institutions in Indiana with a tuition of $5,852.

ISU comes second with a tuition of $7,898.

“We certainly have nothing to apologize for on the affordability front, but we’re always open to new ideas,” Rozewski said. “If we see an opportunity to make ourselves more affordable, we’re probably going to seize it but we don’t have a plan right this minute.”

Physics associate professor Kent Scheller serves on the ICHE as a faculty representative and said one of the major goals of the ICHE is to try and keep college affordable for Indiana residents.

“One of the most important goals of the commission is to increase the number of baccalaureate  degrees in the state of Indiana, and that’s hard to do if you put a baccalaureate degree out of reach financially,” Scheller said.

Tuition costs are rising, and it’s become increasingly difficult to hold the tuition levels down, Scheller said.

“But it’s more important to keep the tuition levels down so that higher education is affordable for college students,” Scheller said.

USI is the lowest funded university in the state, and Scheller said he thinks that it is because USI is a young school.

“(USI) doesn’t have the history of IU or Purdue, but that doesn’t matter because we’re offering the same baccalaureate degree that any state institution is, and we should be able to compete on a similar level,” he said.

Fifth-year English major Jaime Garner takes out Stafford loans and works two jobs so she can pay her monthly payments to the university. She said she is about $15,000 to $20,000 in debt now.

“(USI) is the lowest (tuition) in the state, which is good, but even still it’s hard to pay it if you don’t have a whole lot of financial aid,” Garner said.

She said she understands why tuition is increasing because of increased enrollment and lack of state funds but does not understand why the school keeps accepting more students if it cannot help the ones they have to graduate.

She thinks decreasing the tuition by $100 would be helpful, she said.

“It’d be awesome not to have an increase at all, but that’s not going to happen,” Garner said. “Every year with everything that’s going on, something’s going to have to increase.”

If the university cut the tuition of summer classes, she would take advantage of it, she said.

She said she would prefer a decrease in summer tuition than fall and spring tuition.

“I think the summer classes are a good way to get things done and out of the way,” Garner said. “If it were lower, I think more people would take advantage of it.”