By Lindsay Huffman
Students enrolled in online courses this fall saw some changes to their tuition bill-one that could have an impact on both their pocketbook and their status as a full-time student.Following a decision approved in June by the Board of Regents, all undergraduate students are now charged on a per-credit basis for every course taken online. In recent years, only part-time students-those who took fewer than 12 credit hours-were charged on a per-credit basis for online courses, which translated to a 25 percent premium over the cost of regular tuition.
Now, however, all students-not just part-time students-will be charged on a per-credit basis for any online course in which they are enrolled. In addition, the cost for online courses have also spiked-an increase that now leaves them costing 30 percent more than the standard tuition rate, which amounts to $358 per online credit hour.
Harry Moberly, Jr., the executive vice president for administration, said that fairness was the driver behind this decision.
“This [model] treats part-time and full-time students the same,” he said.
In addition to the cost hikes, the Board of Regents also changed how online courses will be counted toward students’ status as either a part-time or full-time student. The main change is that student will no longer be able to count online courses toward their status as a full-time student (which is defined as a student enrolled in at least 12 credit hours in a semester).
That means that any student who wants to be considered a full-time student must take at least 12 hours of traditional courses-that is, courses taught in an actual classroom setting. Such a course load, for in-state undergraduate students, would result in a tuition bill of $3,312.
However, the new policy has its share of complications for those who mix online courses with traditional ones.
For example, students taking three traditional courses and one online course will not be considered full-time students. And as a result, their tuition would be billed on a per-credit model for all their courses because they would be considered part-time students.
Consider the numbers: three traditional courses would cost $276 per credit hour, which amounts to $2,484. In addition, the students would be charged $358 per credit hour for their online course, which would add another $1,074 to their bill. All told, tuition would cost $3,558 for one semester, which is more than the tuition rate for a full-time student enrolled solely in traditional courses.
However, university officials said it’s important to note that this distinction of “full-time” and “part-time” students applies only for billing purposes. If a student takes at least 12 hours and has a mixture of online and traditional courses, he or she will still be considered a full-time student for financial aid and other purposes.
Shannon Means, special assistant to the Office of the Executive Vice President for Administration, said these changes were born out of the tuition forums that occurred on campus last semester.
At the third and final forum, the administration presented this recommendation. In exchange for not charging all students on a per-credit basis, they agreed that the per-credit model would apply only to online courses.
“The online tuition model is what is referred to in writing as ‘The Great Compromise,'” Means said.
Moberly said he hopes the new online tuition policy will cause students who live on campus to sign up for more traditional classes.
“We’ve never attempted to encourage full-time residential students to take online courses,” Moberly said. “We [at Eastern] have always prided ourselves on being a residential campus, and we encourage residents to take traditional courses.”
Moberly also said the reason the tuition rates changed for online courses is because the development of these classes and the salaries paid to professors were usually higher than the costs of a traditional class.
“As we move toward more online [course offerings], in many cases, we pay more to have them taught,” he said.
But there are some circumstances in which the new online tuition model could be waived for some students, Means said. One such circumstance applies to students who are required to take a course for their major and it is only offered online.
Means said there are 27 courses offered solely online this semester, of which a few are electives. There are about 90 online courses available overall.
Means said she would try to accommodate all students who encounter these special situations.
“For every call, I field it and talk over the situation [with the student],” she said. “I want to make sure students receive feedback, even if it’s not the answer they want.”
But for some students, the cost increases have prompted them to reconsider whether they’ll take online courses.
Wade Combs, a sophomore math teaching major from Jackson County, Ky., said he’ll probably stick to traditional courses from now on.
“If I’m a full-time student and an online course would jack fees up $1,000, I’m not taking one,” Combs said. “If online fees were more reasonable, I would take one.”
Combs said he doesn’t mind that online courses cost more money than traditional courses, but he dislikes the idea of having to pay the full rate of online per-credit tuition plus the full-time tuition rate. He said he would rather pay $82-the difference between a traditional course and an online course-for every credit hour he took online in addition to the flat rate tuition model.
University officials said they hope the new tuition model for online courses will encourage the school to offer more traditional courses next semester so students can avoid higher online rates.
“We’ve been meeting with the chairs [of the departments] and asking them to use this semester as a good example to offer more traditional classes and to use the experiences of these students as a teaching moment,” Moberly said.
For more information about tuition rates, visit www.billings.eku.edu or contact Shannon Means at 622-4997.