St. Thomas is establishing a new tuition model for undergraduate students beginning with the Class of 2023.
With goals of reducing time to graduation, lowering student debt, aligning with prospective student preference and making it easier to compare tuition costs between higher education options, the new tuition model will charge incoming undergraduate students a single rate for taking anywhere between 12-18 credits. Students taking more than 18 credits will be charged a single $1,500 coverage fee with no additional per-credit charges.
“The new tuition model will provide financial incentives to students so they progress to their degrees faster, and thus allow them to reduce their student debt,” said Mark Vangsgard, vice president for business affairs and chief financial officer.
The decision reflects a thorough examination of what is best for students from both an education and financial standpoint; while student behavior following the changes are not yet fully known, projections show the change will be revenue neutral for the university. The cost to degree for a student in four years is the same under both the old and new models, taking into account that it requires 132 credits to graduate from St. Thomas.
Included in the new model is a continuation of the 50 percent discount rate for summer courses, as well as a new 50 percent discount for J-Term courses both online and on campus starting in 2020.
This new system will go into effect in fall 2019 only for incoming first-year and transfer students and subsequent incoming classes. All current rising sophomores, juniors and seniors will continue on with the current per-credit model until they graduate, meaning they can complete their requirements under the model in place when they chose to attend St. Thomas.
Several factors prompted the move to this new tuition model:
- Reduce time to graduation and student debt: By providing incentive to students to take a full course load and graduate in four years, the model also encourages a reduction in room, board, transportation and other college-related expenses that contribute to student debt. Federal, state and institutional aid can also be limited after four years, meaning student debt spikes accompany full tuition costs in years five and beyond.
- Promotes student exploration: If a student is taking 12 credits and there is an additional course they would be interested in exploring, they can do so without additional cost.
- Allows additional academic opportunities: Students who take more than 16 credits per semester can pursue an additional major, minor or certificate at no additional cost up to 18 credits, or for only $1,500 more if credits exceed 18. (University policy states a first-year student is limited to 17 credits their first semester, and 21 credits after that. Students wishing to take more than that must receive endorsement from their academic adviser and approval from their dean.)
- Aligns with prospective student preference: Data shows that among prospective students with a preference, a single 12-18 credit rate is preferred to per-credit by a 3-2 ratio.
- Makes it easier to compare tuition between colleges: Aside from St. Catherine University, St. Thomas is the only institution among our peers that charges per credit, and the vast majority of higher education institutions use a single tuition rate model. A move to that model will make it easier for prospective students to compare St. Thomas on an apples-to-apples basis.
- Aligns financial aid and tuition models: Financial aid awards are currently given as a single rate per semester, not per credit; moving to a single tuition rate brings simplicity to both systems.
As is the case now, students should work with their academic adviser to determine their best options for academic success, and with financial aid to determine the details of their financial aid eligibility. Financial aid eligibility will likely be the same for students enrolled in 12-18 credit hours, but individual circumstances can vary. The change does not affect how Satisfactory Academic Progress is calculated, which requires financial aid recipients to make reasonable academic progress toward degree completion.
The new tuition model also applies to online courses. Students who enroll in less than 12 credits – in person or online – will continue to pay on a per-credit basis.