Tuition Policy and Differential Tuition

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Imagine that you work for a large, urban college. Many state colleges and universities have recently started to examine their tuition policy due to budget cuts in your state. You have been selected to serve on a tuition task force to study the tuition policy at your college, as well as state budget fund distribution by category. Specifically, your task force has been asked to research tuition policies in other states and make a recommendation to your institution’s executive leadership team.

Several tuition task force members have expressed concern about the quality of services and programs at the college. Decreases in state funding for higher education over the past few years have had a major impact on your college. Your college has experienced a 15 percent reduction in public funding over the past 3 years resulting in the elimination of some administrative positions, a reduction in employee benefits, as well as hiring and salary freezes. Many are calling for enrollment caps as a way of putting pressure on the governor and state legislature to restore funding for public education.

As you listen to the lively debate during the first task force meeting, you wonder how the government will find the money. You explore the various programs supported by public funds, the percentage of the state budget that is devoted to higher education, and how that compares to other programs.

You become curious about how funds are allocated for higher education. You ponder the question, are all institutions equally funded based on students or is some other mechanism used? You share your thoughts with the group and learn that none of the task force members fully understand how higher education funding compares with other programs. They are equally interested in learning how the allocation of public funds your college receives compares with other public institutions in the state.

Task 1: The chair asks all members of the task force to research the state’s budget expenditures and the distribution of public funds within higher education and requests that all findings be shared at the next tuition task force meeting. The task force members unanimously agree that this is valuable information to inform the discussion and also asks that each task force member make recommendations about enrollment caps and their effectiveness as a means to influence political entities within the state.

During the initial research phase, a member of the tuition task force discovers a new term, “differential tuition”, and shares this with the other members as one idea for the task force to consider. Differential tuition is the practice of using multiple tuition rates within the state and/or within an institution. The chair of the task force asks that the group further explore this option and to bring their recommendations back to the next task force meeting. Additionally, the chair requests that the group share their findings regarding the state’s budget expenditures and the methods of distribution for public funds within higher education.

Task 2: Members of the tuition task force agree that they should further research the practice of differential tuition as well and share their findings with the other members of the task force. The chair of the task force has asked that each member prepare answers to the following questions and share them with the group at the next meeting.

In your first post, provide a detailed breakdown of your state’s budget expenditures and the distribution method used for public funds within higher education. Outline the portion of your state’s budget that is devoted to higher education. Describe how public funds are distributed among the public institutions in your state. State your opinion of whether the funding mechanism seems to be fair. State how the institutions that receive more funding are different from those that receive less funding. What dollar amount would be required to restore the 15 percent cuts? Describe why you think it is reasonable to restore the funding by cutting other areas. Why, or why not?

In your next post, define differential tuition. Explore whether differential tuition is used within any of the public or private institutions in your state. If so, list the colleges and programs that are more expensive. What possible justifications exist for the use of differential tuition? Is there a difference in tuition between various public institutions in the state where you earned your undergraduate degree? If so, what is the tuition range? Describe the characteristics of the institutions that have higher tuition rates and how they differ from the less expensive institutions.

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