Differentiated tuition proposed for engineering, business classes


Chancellor Harvey Perlman has proposed to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents a program to differentiate tuition in the colleges of Engineering and Business Administration - both of which have seen significant enrollment growth over recent years and have higher instructional costs than other colleges. The proposal was presented during the NU Regents' April 29 meeting.

The UNL proposal institutes a higher tuition rate for classes in CBA and Engineering, beginning fall 2011, if approved by the Board of Regents at its June meeting. Undergraduate in-state tuition at UNL is $198 per credit hour. The differential tuition proposal would add $50 per credit for in-state undergraduate students and $147 for non-resident undergraduates. Undergraduate tuition for both in-state and out-of-state students in these colleges would still remain the lowest in the Big Ten and near the bottom of the Regent peer group. The effect of the increase means that in-state undergraduate students majoring in business or engineering would pay approximately $3,000 more over the course of their undergraduate careers.

In-state and non-resident graduate tuition rates would also increase.

"These colleges have unique needs in terms of the cost of delivering high quality education," said Ellen Weissinger, senior vice chancellor for academic affairs. "Modern engineering instruction is expensive to deliver because it is necessarily reliant on laboratories that are expensive to equip and maintain. Emerging areas of engineering education and research require expensive technical and professional staff support. Business and engineering also have higher hiring costs because of competition with the private sector for faculty talent."

Weissinger said enrollment in CBA has grown by 11.4 percent over five years, with 14 percent fewer faculty compared with 10 years ago. Student-to-faculty ratio in business is 43 to 1, compared to 27 to 1 average in Big Ten business colleges. Engineering undergraduate enrollment has grown by 9.6 percent, and graduate enrollment by 39.2 percent in the last five years, with no growth in faculty.

"This allows us to address high faculty-student ratios and to better compete nationally both in the cutting-edge quality of education and in critical areas of research," Weissinger said. "State dollars have not allowed us to keep pace as our needs have grown in these two colleges. It's a matter of generating resources for these specific needs."

Perlman said students paying the additional tuition would see immediate benefits in terms of access to course work and other support. Differentiated tuition is also becoming the norm in universities nationally. Perlman said that of 162 public research universities, 92 now charge differentiated tuition in at least one program area - usually business or engineering.

"Even with the tuition differential, tuition rates for engineering and CBA will still be the lowest or next-to-the-lowest among Big Ten and current Big 12 universities," Perlman said. "All Big Ten universities and all of our Regent designated peers have differential tuitions for their business and engineering colleges, so do Kansas, Colorado, Texas A&M, Texas, Iowa State and others. Nebraska students deserve the enhancements that these new funds will make possible if they are to remain competitive."

Perlman said the plan calls for a portion of revenues to be set aside for need-based aid. The university's College Bound Program would apply so Pell-eligible families would pay no tuition under the plan.

"The alternatives - capping enrollments in these colleges, or reallocating internally within the university - are unacceptable," he said. "We need to graduate more, not fewer, students. We are an engine for Nebraska's economy. The competitiveness of both of these colleges is central to the success of Innovation Campus and the Nebraska economy."

Perlman recently proposed $5.01 million in budget reductions and is considering additional potential cuts for the next fiscal year.

- Kelly Bartling, University Communications