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UW Trustees Approve Program Fees to Boost Student Services

November 16, 2017

University of Wyoming students will receive enhanced advising, career preparation and other student services following the UW Board of Trustees’ approval of a plan to institute cost-based fees for academic programs.

The board voted today (Thursday) in favor of the program fees proposal, crafted by a task force appointed by President Laurie Nichols and supported by the Associated Students of UW. The fees will go into effect in the 2018-19 academic year.

Revenues from the program fees will cover essential program supplies and materials, based on the varying costs of those programs, while improving advising and career student services and instruction. Ultimately, the fees are expected to boost 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 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,” Nichols says. “Challenging times need not undermine the university’s commitment to quality, accessible and affordable higher education. That is what the program fee proposal will help us accomplish -- keeping costs low while enhancing academic advising and program quality.”

Revenue from a new common advising fee of $6 per credit hour will be used to implement a new professional advising model at the university, while expanding student success and career planning and placement services. This will allow all first-year, distance and transfer students to interact with highly trained, professional advisers, with major and program advising done by highly trained, college-based professionals.

“This reboot of UW’s advising system will result in consistent, reliably available, year-round advising with centrally trained and certified advisers,” UW Provost Kate Miller says. “These professionals will develop intentional, relational contact with students to help them overcome barriers and challenges, minimizing errors that lead to increased time to graduation.”

National data show that instituting a coordinated, intentional advising model, with training and certification -- and with first-year and transfer advising done by people with the highest level of training -- increases the percentage of students in good standing at the end of their first year, along with retention and persistence rates, and grade-point averages. Research also shows intentional, coordinated advising models reach students who may not seek assistance, helping put them in the mindset of persistence and of taking control of their education.

“The value to our students will increase as we improve resources for student success, retention, graduation and career success,” says Associate Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Anne Alexander. “By delivering quality advising, we expect students to make better choices in their course taking. That, in turn, will lead to students not having the extra expense of another semester or two at UW, which costs much more than the advising fees themselves.”

Other student services that will be enhanced include UW’s STEP (Success, Tutoring, Engagement and Personal Growth) Program; the Math Lab and Oral Communication Center; tutoring; supplemental instruction; and internship outreach and coordination.

In addition to the common advising fee of $6 per credit hour, other program fees will be based upon the cost of individual academic programs. Those fees range from an additional $3 per credit hour for some nonscience courses in the College of Arts and Sciences to $25 per credit hour in the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and for classes in the visual and performing arts.

“These fees recognize varying costs of each academic program,” says Rob Godby, the UW Department of Economics professor who chaired the task force that crafted the program fees 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 the trustees’ action, all of UW’s existing college program and course fees -- there are more than 140 of them at present -- will be replaced with a simpler and comprehensive framework to allow students to better understand the costs of attending UW.

In all, average increases in the overall cost to students per semester to attend UW will range from $123 for College of Arts and Sciences students not in science or visual/performing arts majors, to $272 for engineering majors.

“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 fees also will help ensure that our student labs are kept up to date with the same equipment they will see in industry. The additional expense will be more than worth it to our students, while keeping our cost of attendance extremely competitive with our peers.”

Total revenue from the program fees is estimated at $4.5 million annually. Of that, $1.3 million will go to enhance advising, student success services and career preparation. The remaining $3.2 million will go to support specific academic programs, including $1.8 million to replace revenues from existing fees. None of the revenues will go toward permanent faculty salaries or research support.

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

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