ITEM 118-105-R0103                                                                             January 16-17, 2003

 

Policy Statement On Tuition

D R A F T

Introduction - The setting of tuition levels is one of the most important tasks undertaken by the Board of Regents because tuition levels have a direct bearing on both student access and educational quality; the two cornerstones of the Regentsí higher education policies for the last decade.† A multitude of considerations go into establishing tuition levels.† This policy statement is an attempt to identify and explain the most important of those considerations.† The weight given any specific factor may vary from year to year depending on changing educational priorities, or a change in the political or economic climate.† For that reason this policy does not give a formula by which precise tuition levels will be determined.† Rather, it attempts merely to identify the variety of factors that influence the setting of tuition.† Some of the factors may even be contrary, one to the other.† One factor may point to higher tuition, another to lower.† Nevertheless, both are listed here because it is important to show how final tuition levels are the product of a set of countervailing considerations.

 

Reservation of Rights - This policy is not intended to bestow any specific rights on any individual or group of individuals and the policy creates no enforceable expectation in any person to any specific or relative level of tuition.

 

The General Goals of Tuition Policy

 

1)†† Tuition should be set at a level that enables a campus to maintain high quality programs and services.

2)†† Tuition levels should not be so high as to make postsecondary education unaffordable for Montanans of modest means.

a)†† The availability of need based student financial aid may mitigate the impact of tuition rates that might otherwise restrict access.

b)†† Affordability will be evaluated by looking at per capita income of Montana residents and the amount of student debt incurred by Montana students; comparing both to regional and national averages.

c)†† Access is a more important consideration at introductory levels of postsecondary education since this is the gateway to all subsequent achievement.† Thus tuition will generally increase as educational level increases.

3)††† As far as practicable, tuition levels should be predictable.† This helps students and their families plan for college expenses.† It also helps campus administrators develop plans and goals within a realistic time frame.

a)††† Unforeseen fluctuations in the level of state support will inevitably create unforeseen changes in tuition levels.

b)††† Changes in the consumer price index and the higher education price index will provide a standard by which to judge the pace and level of tuition changes.

4)†† Tuition levels should be competitive with other comparable public institutions.

a)†† n-state tuition levels should be low enough to motivate Montana students to remain within the state for their education.

b)†† Non-resident tuition should be low enough to attract students from out of state.

i)††† The cost of educating a student should be the general benchmark for establishing non-resident tuition, but this amount may be lowered by considering the non-residentsí contribution to campus programs and facilities (e.g., housing), or if the non-residents are enrolled in programs with excess capacity.

ii)††† Non-resident students contribute dollars not only to the University System but also to the economies of the general community.† This general economic benefit should not be ignored when establishing non-resident tuition levels.

iii)†† The issue of competitiveness is especially crucial in setting tuition levels for courses where access to the course is independent of a studentís location (i.e., on-line courses).

 

Tuition Levels As a Reflection of the Cost of Education

 

1)†† Tuition levels will bear some reasonable relationship to the costs incurred by the campus in providing the education to the student.

a)†† As a general rule it is expected that cost of providing a program increases as one progresses from lower division, to upper division, to graduate school.

b)†† In recognition of the low national ranking of Montana in per capita income, a Montana cost of education 10% below the average of comparable states is a goal.

c)†† Unique campus or community factors (e.g., infrastructure needs, energy costs) may be proper factors to consider when calculating cost of education.

d)†† Tuition for distance education courses should bear some reasonable relationship to cost.

 

The Value of Education as a Factor in Establishing Tuition Levels

 

1)†† The benefits that accrue to society from having a well-educated citizenry should be taken into account when tuition levels are established.

2)†† The benefits of higher education that accrue to the individual should be taken into account when tuition levels are established.† This factor will often complement the practice of scaling tuition to the cost of programs.† A practical manifestation of these two factors is the tiering of tuition by level of institution.

a)††† Students at two-year institutions should pay a relatively low percentage of the cost of their education.

b)††† Students at regional/comprehensive campuses will pay a higher percentage of the cost of their education.

c)††† Students at the research/graduate campuses will pay the highest percentage of the cost of their education.

 

The Practice of Establishing Tuition

 

1)†† As far as is practicable, the Board of Regents will establish tuition and fees for two-year intervals.

2)†† The Board will solicit recommendations on tuition levels from students and faculty and from campus and OCHE administrators.† Campus hearings are a preferred method of soliciting student and faculty input.

3)†† A multiplication of fees is to be avoided and mandatory general fees should more generally than is done at present be incorporated into tuition levels.

4)†† Campuses should be allowed flexibility in the setting of tuition upon the demonstration of special fiscal or market circumstances.

5)†† Incentives should be established to reward campuses that are successful in maintaining relatively low levels of tuition.†