Banded tuition has as many detractors as it does proponents. Regardless of how students and administration feel about it, it will arrive in the 2016 fall semester. On Monday morning, the Undergraduate Student Government had a town hall about IUPUI’s upcoming banded tuition.
The town hall, which was an open dialogue where individuals could ask questions of IU administration and the Indiana Commission for Higher Education, was set to start at 9 a.m. and end at 10 a.m. Due to a lack of turnout among students, the town hall began almost a half an hour late as attendees tried to spread word and bring more students.
A stage had been set for a panel of speakers, but due to the small number of guests, Chancellor Nasser Paydar was the central speaker. Rather than line up at a microphone, attendees introduced themselves one at a time and could raise their hands to speak. Questions flowed until Paydar left for another appointment, promising to hear more students at the next opportunity.
Members of Students for Fair Wages were in attendance. Emma Fletcher, a fifth year senior, explained that they were there to represent students in the conversation about banded tuition, especially after the university made the decision without student input.
“We just want to be part of that conversation and get in the room, get into the board of trustees and talk to them about who it’s hurting,” she said.
The concept of banded tuition was suggested to IUPUI by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education. The commission doesn’t dictate to schools, but makes non-binding recommendations. Most colleges in Indiana, including IU Bloomington, Purdue, and Indiana State University, already have banded tuition.
Staff of the commission explained that statistics show that the longer students are in college, the more likely they are to drop out. Recent years have seen the “fifteen to finish” campaign, which pushes students to take 15 credit hours in order to finish their education in four years.
Banded tuition builds on the fifteen to finish idea and pushes students to take enough classes for them to finish in the shortest amount of time. The average IUPUI student takes 14.3 credit hours, and by setting the flat rate fee at 15 credit hours, students will take more classes than before.
Paydar expressed concern over freshman student dropout rates, stating that “roughly half of [IUPUI] students are not successful,” and that banded tuition should remedy the problem.
Some are skeptical about this plan.
“I feel like more and more every day universities are turning into corporations and getting away from the fact of the students and the academic experience,” Amy Armogida, another member of Students for Fair Wages, said. “When they’re pushing students that are already under stress … to take on even more, that increases the suicide rate, that increases stress levels, that increases overall failure.”
Paydar explained that IUPUI is expected to make $4 million from banded tuition, but all profits will be put back into the school to fund need-based financial aid. He also said that students of color in particular will receive more aid.
A common concern among students was that banded tuition was formed with just the traditional student model and how IUPUI is unlike most four year institutions. Traditional students are fresh out of high school and are often full-time students who do not work or expect to take longer than four years. Unlike IU Bloomington, IUPUI has a higher population of students who are part-time, parents, or never intended to graduate in four years to begin with.
“I’m against the banded flat-rate tuition at 15 [credit hours] because it doesn’t help students of color, student parents like myself. I’m a single mom and I cannot take 15 credits,” Armogida said. “It doesn’t help student workers or just any non-traditional students, which this campus was founded for.”
At one point, Paydar spoke to members of Students for Fair Wages, explaining that he sent an email to President Michael McRobbie on behalf of students opposed to banded tuition. After meeting a dozen students with a 600-signature strong petition against banded tuition, Paydar discussed the motivations behind implementing banded tuition and students’ concerns. Printouts of their correspondence were offered.
Regardless of the intent behind banded tuition or the opinions students may have about it, banded tuition comes in the fall. Only time will tell if it’s what IUPUI needs.