Last year my mother and I were looking at my expenses for the upcoming spring semester, and she
realized my tuition seemed higher than it had been just the semester before.
And she was right — it was $500 more expensive to be exact.
This price increase was due to my new status as an upperclassman. Although I was still only in my second year at Temple, I had obtained the minimum 60 credits necessary to qualify me as a junior in time for the spring 2016 semester, and upperclassman status meant higher tuition rates.
Luckily, this won’t be the case for juniors and seniors any longer. This fall, the university has eliminated the $1,000 tuition differential that has been in place for upperclassmen since the fall of 2009. This change is among several the university is introducing to streamline its tuition policies.
“It kind of aligns with the university’s kind of drive toward affordability and keeping student debt low,” Temple’s Chief Financial Officer Ken Kaiser told me.
The former tuition increase accounted for the additional costs that go into educating upperclassmen, like smaller class sizes and more advanced educational equipment.
But I didn’t realize this last school year when I saw my tuition went up.
Eliminating the upperclassman differential will also eliminate a lot of confusion for students, like me, who didn’t understand why they were being charged more in the first place.
“I think it takes down the puzzlement barrier of ‘Why am I suddenly being charged this?’” said Honors Program Director Ruth Ost.
Ost said many honors students come to Temple with existing credits, typically from Advanced Placement classes, and some even gain upperclassman status during their first year.
Eliminating the upper-level differential will make tuition easier to understand for these students, as well as traditional juniors and seniors.
“The other thing it helps is the emphasis for graduating in four years, which really helps with student debt as well,” Kaiser said. “We didn’t want to see students get to the upper class and then not persist because of a couple thousand dollars.”
I’m glad to see the university is continuing with its mission of affordability and accessibility, building off of initiatives like “Fly in 4.” In fact, the university has also further streamlined its tuition plan for this upcoming fall in regard to credit hours.
One such change is that full-time tuition will now cover 18 credits instead of just 17. This will allow students to opt for six classes per semester if they so choose. Most classes are worth three credits, so it only makes sense that full-time tuition would cover credits in multiples of three.
“Now with 18, you really can use those two [credits] that often you couldn’t use because you couldn’t take another three credit class,” Ost said. “It really opens up a lot of possibilities.”
The university will also charge a flat rate for credits if students choose to overload on credits at 19 or more per semester.
While this change allows for students to take on more classes and hopefully graduate in four years — or even sooner — it may also have the negative consequence of encouraging students to take on more than they can handle.
“People really need to talk to their adviser about whether what they’re doing makes sense,” Ost said. “We don’t want people to be taking six courses and then drop out or do badly because they’ve overdone it.”
Like Ost said, just because you can take more credits in one semester doesn’t mean you should. I don’t think I’ll be among those brave enough to take on such a venture.
Temple has also made one more very important effort in streamlining its tuition plan. The part-time and full-time tuition rates are now connected.
This means the transition from part-time to full-time student is not a costly one.
Previously, students adding the 12th credit necessary to go full-time would be paying about $2,000 just for that extra credit. Now, those first 12 credits will all cost the same amount. And for students taking 13 to 18 credits, the price will decrease with each additional credit, encouraging students to pursue their degrees full-time.
Students who most likely work in addition to their studies will be encouraged to pick up more credits at their own pace, and their wallets won’t suffer for it.
“It no longer has this perverse incentive to remain part-time,” Kaiser said.
This is perhaps the most important tuition change the university is making this fall because it is aimed at the core of what Temple is and always has been—a place for students who already have a lot on their plate to get the best education they can. This was true in the 1880s when the university operated as a night school for working-class people and it’s true today.
I’m glad the university is continually looking for ways to keep access and affordability as top priorities. This year’s new tuition model with all of its enhancements is yet another testament to these values.
Jenny Roberts can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.