Officials approve reduced tuition for online-only students at Southern Utah University

120th annual Southern Utah University commencement, Cedar City, Utah, May 3, 2019 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

ST. GEORGE — During a meeting Thursday and Friday at Southern Utah University, the Utah System of Higher Education Board of Regents unanimously voted to approve a new tuition schedule that affects all online students.

University officials proposed a significant tuition decrease for online students. Under the newly approved tuition schedule, online-only undergraduate students can expect a 22.8% decrease in tuition and fees per semester, while online-only graduate students will be seeing an 11.9% dip.

Undergraduate students pursuing any of the seven bachelor’s degrees offered online will be assessed tuition at $300 per credit hour, dropping from the previous $389 per credit hour.

Depending on which of the 14 master’s degree programs they are participating in, graduate students will be assessed tuition between $335 and $485, which is a 7-22% decrease compared to the previous year’s $389 to $555 per-credit rate.

“One of SUU’s priorities is student access and affordability. This change allows us to offer quality education at one of the most competitive prices in the nation,” SUU spokeswoman Nikki Koontz said. “We want to help people finish their degrees in a flexible and customizable way. Students come first at SUU and cutting tuition is just another example of that mission.”

According to the proposal, 94% of students completing online-only degrees at SUU are part-time students, many of whom may be struggling to pay their way through the programs.

USHE Commissioner David Woolstenhulme said the new tuition schedule is aimed at online, nontraditional students who can’t benefit from a tuition plateau because they aren’t taking enough credit hours to be considered full-time students.

120th annual Southern Utah University commencement, Cedar City, Utah, May 3, 2019 | File photo by Jeff Richards, St. George News / Cedar City News

“The population that this is really targeting is those students who, maybe, they’re working adult students that don’t take classes on campus but are taking them at home, they’re doing them in the middle of the night, they’re doing them around all their other crazy schedules – those students who, because they don’t take a full load, they never benefit from the plateau.”

According to Woolstenhulme, the Board of Regents was primarily concerned with the impact it would have on students. Ultimately, the board decided the drop in tuition would “definitely” have a positive impact on students and “will hopefully help them get through their programs,” he said.

University officials are hoping to “promote access, affordability and completion” for online-only students by implementing changes to the tuition plateau and schedule that would decrease tuition overall and create a more clear breakdown of the tuition schedule.

Woolstenhulme said there is an obvious financial impact that will positively affect students, but more than that, there is an overall benefit to students in that they will know exactly how much they’re paying for their education through the tuition and fee consolidation.

There will be a “small financial impact” for SUU, Woolstenhulme said, but university officials are hoping the increased financial accessibility will increase the number of students taking online classes and offset the impact.

Tuition decreases will go into effect in spring 2020.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2019, all rights reserved.

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