Ending Tuition Unfairness for Online Students

Ending Tuition Unfairness for Online Students Ending Tuition Unfairness for Online Students

September 12, 20192 min read

Utah has a large number of adults with some college and no degree, and enrolling more of those students is important.

Most such students are place-bound and limited -- by work demands and/or family responsibilities -- in how and when they can enroll in postsecondary courses. Online education is the only answer for many of them, and the vast majority of them must chip away at their degrees part-time, taking six or eight credits each term.

The Utah System of Higher Education, of which Southern Utah University is a part, has a "plateau tuition" policy designed to encourage students to enroll full-time by charging students no more tuition to take 15 credits than to take 10.

This actually penalizes students who don't go full-time: the first few credits a student takes each semester are priced high, and the price steadily drops as the credits mount.

Which means that some Utahns who most need higher education to improve their career prospects or lives -- working adults, students in geographically remote areas with limited job opportunities -- pay more per credit than do full-time students on the campus. And that struck SUU's officials as punitive and unwise.

"This is the largest piece of unfairness in our system," says Scott L. Wyatt, SUU's president.

Most of SUU's part-time students study online, where the anytime, anywhere nature of the course delivery meshes better with lives complicated by work, family, and other responsibilities. The overwhelmingly majority of the university's online students are taking fewer than 12 credits, with the average being seven. 

"In reality, by the time they get a bachelor's degree done, they have paid considerably more than the face-to-face student," Wyatt says.

That will no longer be true come the spring, when SUU alters its tuition policies. The university is cutting the per-credit price by nearly a third and tuition will be capped, no matter how many credits a student takes.

Scott L Wyatt is Southern Utah University’s 16th president. He is familiar with the media and available for an interview. Simply visit his profile.

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