USI proposes tuition increases, program fees

Shannon Hall

Students who began their education at USI in the fall semester of 2010 have experienced an 11-percent tuition increase since they stepped foot on campus, and they’re looking at another spike before their four-year tenure comes to an end.

USI proposed a 4.4 percent tuition increase for the 2013-2014 academic year at the public notice meeting for the 2013-2015 tuition and fees overview Monday in Carter Hall, and another 4.3 percent increase for the following year, which would be the highest percentage increase in the state for four-year public institutions.

The Commission for Higher Education announced in May it would like universities to put a cap on tuition, limiting tuition increases to no more than 2 percent per year over the next two years.

“Indiana lawmakers stepped up this session and invested more than $235 million … to support the operations of our colleges and universities over the next two years,” said Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education Teresa Lubbers in the May 9 news release. “Now we’re asking our colleges to do their part by limiting their tuition increases to no higher than the rate of inflation.”

President Linda Bennett spoke during the meeting.  She said she talked with Lubbers to make sure the commission was aware USI’s planned tuition rate is greater than a two percent increase.

“I respect what the commission is doing. We have worked hard with the commission in terms of their goals,” Bennett said. “They also recognize that we are stretched thin.”

She said 97 percent of USI’s revenue comes from state appropriations and student fees. In early January, Bennett went before legislature to ask for $10 million extra in equity over the next two years, of which USI has received $4 million.

Bennett said she has urged the commission and legislature to look at the actual dollar instead of the percentage increase.

“Looking only at the percentage increase tells a story that masks the real dollar differences,” Bennett said.

USI’s proposed tuition for the 2013-2014 academic year is $6,418, which is a $273 increase. In 2014-2015, tuition would be set at $6,696, which is another $278 increase.

Despite the tuition increase, USI would still maintain the lowest tuition rate for four-year public instituions in Indiana.

“USI’s tuition is 34 percent, or $3,162, less than the other state-wide residential campuses,” Bennett said. “USI’s tuition is the most affordable among all the campuses (in the state), including the Indiana University and Purdue University branch campuses.”

The extra money will fund increases in full-time faculty, faculty compensation, strengthening programs in student success, and accelerating growth in both the undergraduate and graduate programs.

Beginning in 2014-2015, program fees will be required in two of USI’s highest-demand programs: nursing and engineering, Bennett said.

USI’s nursing program, which is in the top 10 percent of nursing programs in the country, will have a $500 fee per semester for the last five semesters. The engineering program will charge $50 per credit hour once the student has completed 60 credit hours, she said.

“These fees are targeted toward those programs and toward the science programs that support these programs,” Bennett said. “To help expand capacity, we have to take a look at how to expand our nursing faculty, how to expand our engineering faculty, and how to expand the science faculty to help those programs as successful as they are.”