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UW Program Fees Proposal Aims to Boost Student Services

October 31, 2016
people in scrubs agathered around a gurney with adult and infant mannequins on it
Nursing students practice with mannequin “patients” in possible birth situations in a skills lab in UW’s Health Sciences Building. A new proposal at UW aims to more closely tie the true cost of instruction to student fees, with higher-cost programs and courses such as nursing carrying higher fees than those for lower-cost courses. (UW Photo)

University of Wyoming students would receive enhanced advising, career preparation, assurance of course availability and other student services under a proposal to institute cost-based fees for academic programs.

Revenues from the program fees would stay with each academic unit to cover program requirements, course availability, and improve advising and career student services and instruction. Ultimately, the proposal aims to improve retention, career readiness and time to graduation for UW students, while keeping the university’s tuition and fees among the lowest of public universities across the country.

The proposal, crafted by a subcommittee appointed by President Laurie Nichols, is being discussed with UW students in a series of town-hall sessions on campus this fall. It will be presented to the UW Board of Trustees at its regular November meeting, with action expected later this academic year.

“These program fees would directly benefit our students, assuring that the university continues to provide an outstanding education even during a time of declining state resources,” UW Provost Kate Miller says. “Though the fees would be an additional cost for students, we believe they actually will improve the value students receive per dollar spent above the already excellent value UW students currently receive.”

Under the proposal, student fees would be assessed above the standard tuition rate based upon the cost of individual academic programs -- and the earnings those degrees provide for students upon graduation. The fees would range from $10 per credit-hour for students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, to $69 per credit-hour in the College of Engineering and Applied Science. Additional fees would be assessed for a limited number of specific high-cost programs.

On average, the cost of tuition and fees for in-state students would rise by $738 annually. Increases in the overall cost of a four-year degree would range from $1,272 for English majors to $5,586 for chemical engineers.

“This proposal recognizes the different wages earned by our graduates, along with the varying costs of each academic program,” says Rob Godby, the UW Department of Economics and Finance professor who chaired the subcommittee that crafted the plan. “Program fees provide a mechanism to more closely tie the true cost of education to the students most likely to benefit from a course of study, and to hold our academic units accountable to students for the quality of their education.”

With revenues from the program fees staying with each academic unit, students would benefit directly from the fees they pay -- particularly in the areas of advising and career placement. The revenues would not be used to supplement faculty research, salaries or other activities.

For example, the College of Engineering and Applied Science would use its program fee revenues to fund an internship/career placement professional; additional student advisers; communications instructors; professors of practice to support laboratory maintenance and senior design instruction; support of instructional laboratories; and other student-focused uses. Spending on a portion of the college’s revenues would be guided by a committee of students toward activities in support of the college’s undergraduate educational mission.

“We are excited about what these program fees will do to assist us in our efforts to deliver a Tier-1 educational experience to our students, including internship opportunities, and in preparing them for outstanding careers,” says Michael Pishko, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science. “The additional expense will be more than worth it to our students, while keeping our cost of attendance extremely competitive with our peers.”

Other examples of how program fee revenues would be used:

-- Additional advisers would be hired, and a central advising center would be created, for students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

-- Both colleges would implement “seat guarantees,” ensuring that if high-demand class sections necessary for students’ programs of study are filled, new sections would be opened to avoid delays in students taking those classes.

-- The College of Health Sciences would expand advising, career and placement services for students.

-- Student communications and math assistance centers would be created and maintained.

-- The College of Business’s communications studio for students would reopen.

Currently, in addition to mandatory student fees for services such as the Wyoming Union and the Student Health Service, UW assesses a variety of academic course and program fees -- 11 separate undergraduate fees, at least 86 course fees, and over 40 fees for course or program activities and other charges. The proposed program fees would replace most of the existing academic fees with a simpler and comprehensive framework to allow students to better understand the costs of attending UW.

Godby notes that the vast majority of UW’s peer institutions assess program fees, most much higher than those proposed for UW. That’s in addition to tuition rates at those institutions, which also far exceed UW’s.

In fact, if the program fees are approved by the university’s Board of Trustees, UW’s tuition and fees would still be 51 percent lower than the average of UW’s 11 nearest-peer schools, and UW would remain the lowest-cost doctoral institution in the country.

“The university has been incredibly fortunate in receiving strong support from the state, which has allowed us to provide excellent educational opportunities at a very low cost to students,” Miller says. “Challenging times need not undermine the university’s commitment to quality, accessible and affordable higher education. That is what the program fee proposal would help us accomplish.”

The report of UW’s Revenue Enhancement Subcommittee, including details of the proposed program fees, may be found at www.uwyo.edu/president/_files/docs/fcac/rec/proposal_to_implement_program_fees.pdf.

Frequently asked questions and answers about UW’s academic program fee proposal:

Why are the fees being proposed?

To help the university maintain programs of the highest quality for students; and to improve student retention, time to graduation and career readiness.

How much will they cost students?

For students in the College of Arts and Sciences and the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, $10 per credit-hour; the College of Health Sciences, $12; the College of Business and the College of Education, $45; the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources, $48; and the College of Engineering and Applied Science, $69. Additional fees would be charged for a limited number of high-cost programs.

Increases in the overall cost of a four-year degree would range from $1,272 for English majors to $5,586 for chemical engineers.

Why not just increase tuition uniformly?

Program fees are the fairest means to distribute the financial burden to students, allocating program costs through a “user pay” principle. The UW Board of Trustees could still consider a regular tuition increase separately from the fee proposal.

On what basis were the different fee levels determined?

The program fees were developed on the basis of cost of delivery, student demand and the varying value of graduates’ degrees.

Would the program fees make UW more expensive than its competitors?

No. UW would still be the lowest-cost doctoral institution in the country, with tuition and fees still 51 percent lower than the average of its 11 nearest-peer schools.

How would program fees affect the cost of attendance and financial aid?

Undergraduate students are awarded financial aid with a standard cost of attendance based on 15 credit-hours per semester, plus mandatory full-time fees. Additional costs, including program and course fees, may be included in the cost of attendance on an individual basis after consultation with the Student Financial Aid Office.

What would revenues from the program fees be used for?

The fee revenues would stay with the individual academic units to go toward enhanced advising, career preparation, assurance of course availability and other student services.

What about existing student fees?

Mandatory fees assessed for all students would continue, but the new academic program fees would largely replace the dozens of program and course fees currently assessed.

When would the new program fees go into effect?

The proposal set to go before the Board of Trustees calls for the new program fees to be assessed beginning with the fall 2017 semester.


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