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Board of Governors approves market-rate tuition

A new tuition system could allow some master’s students in the same program to pay up to three times as much as others.

USF and four other Florida universities were granted approval from the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) on Thursday to go forth with a new method of collecting tuition – “market-rate” tuition.

The system would allow the University to charge students the full cost of educational delivery in five masters’ programs – electrical engineering, entrepreneurship, management information systems, nurse anesthesia and public administration – without tapping into Education and General (E&G) funds.

USF Provost Ralph Wilcox said in an interview with The Oracle the new system would allow a greater number of students access to the University.

“It’s a very positive development for those students in the Florida marketplace who may be looking to access high-quality graduate programs at the University of South Florida,” he said. “We are limited to the size of the cohorts that we accept currently to (the five) programs by the limited E&G resources we can direct to those programs. A major incentive is access to these programs, albeit (at) a higher price or cost.”

In a letter sent from University President Judy Genshaft to State University System Chancellor Frank Brogan, Genshaft pointed to the existing nurse anesthesia program as to why USF needed market-rate tuition.

In 2006, USF had 29 applicants to the program and 13 admits. In 2011, it had 64 applicants and only 15 admits.

If market-rate tuition was approved, Genshaft wrote, the number of students would immediately increase with the increased revenue.

Currently, the cost of tuition for the nurse anesthesia program is $26,331. Under the new tuition system, it would cost $57,600.

Rita D’Aoust, associate dean for academic affairs in the College of Nursing, said in an email to The Oracle the market-rate price would fall in a middle range of regional and state prices for the same program. “We will continue to offer a highly competitive and desirable program,” she said. “The market-rate tuition will allow us to provide the most innovative and up-to-date educational approaches.”

D’Aoust said the program plans to double enrollment by Fall 2012.

Wilcox said he thinks the market-rate system, which is on a three-year pilot program, is in great demand.

“Our preliminary market analysis, if you will, suggests that certainly the five programs that were approved for USF will be very, very well-received in the marketplace,” he said. “These are needs we can’t currently meet through E&G-funded mechanisms of academic-funded programs. Market-based tuition programs were intended to meet the demand of new markets – markets that aren’t currently being served by the State University System institutions.”

Students will still have the option to pay for tuition at the current rate, Wilcox said. Students can indicate on their applications if they would like to be eligiblie for the market-rate program, which Wilcox said many out-of-state students wishing to take classes that the program offers online would.

Yet the standards of the program, he said, would have “absolutely no difference in quality.”

The admissions and graduation requirements would remain the same. The quality of delivery and student learning outcomes would also remain the same. The only difference, Wilcox said, would be the source of funding for the program.

All programs, though delivered by the same faculty in colleges, will be administered through USF’s University College.

The Board of Governors approved 17 similar market-rate programs in its February 2011 meeting.

The Board also made suggestions to the universities to consider lowering tuition for science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM)-related fields and raising tuition for non-STEM fields, in line with Gov. Rick Scott’s vision of creating more STEM jobs in Florida.

While USF is not considering specific suggestions the Board made, Wilcox said the University will look for ways to increase the number of STEM degrees coming out of USF.

“That might include investments or repurposing of investments and current resources,” he said. “It may include variable tuition by discipline. There are a broad range of things that we’ll be discussing in the coming weeks and months with the mind to increasing the state’s share of STEM graduates.”

Wilcox said USF will be sending a response later this week to Gov. Scott’s letter, which circulated to all university presidents last month to find out how they were contributing to the Florida workplace.