Radford University is easing into charging students extra for taking more than 16 credit hours per semester after many spoke against the new policy last fall.
The move to charge $329 per additional credit hour after 16 has been modified for the fall 2020 semester in response to student feedback from an online survey administered in October.
Students will now be charged extra after the 18th credit hour next fall and the 17th starting in the fall of 2021.
University President Brian Hemphill has said the policy change is an effort to better align tuition rates with student costs and with other public institutions in the state, some of which charge per credit hour.
He’s also said the change will only affect a small chunk of the student population.
“A prior financial analysis indicated that the change would impact approximately 12 percent of the total student body, whereas an across-the-board increase would impact all students,” he wrote in a recent email to those who work and study on Radford’s main campus.
Wendy Kang, director of finance policy and innovation at the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia, told The Roanoke Times in a previous story that public universities use a variety of models to determine tuition costs.
For example, George Mason charges additional fees for anything over 15 credits, and Virginia Commonwealth’s tuition is paid for per credit hour, but anything over 15 is half price, she said. Virginia Tech doesn’t have a credit limit, but charges extra fees for certain majors and the University of Virginia charges different tuition rates depending on the major.
Matthew Shuma, an RU junior honors student majoring in biology, was one of the main drivers in bringing the new policy to the attention of his fellow students at the start of last semester.
During a student-led meeting in October, many students spoke about how they chose Radford in large part because of its affordability. Many said they are struggling to make it as it is, and can’t afford higher costs.
Hemphill wrote in his email that the university will also be working to increase scholarship opportunities for those already enrolled at Radford. The university also recently rolled out a program to provide $13 million in scholarships to incoming freshmen over the next four years.
Shuma and former student Hannah Stewart, who graduated in December, met with various administrators this past semester to discuss the policy. After those talks, they believe more students will be affected than the university has estimated.
“He [Hemphill] also stated ‘12% of the total student body’ is affected by this however that 12% is just majors that are required to take more than 120 credits not the actual percentage of students,” Shuma wrote in a recent email. He wrote that he still doesn’t understand how taking more credits means students should pay more.
“Hannah and I have been told countless times that this better aligns cost and price, yet we still don’t know what resources this policy is paying for. This is a for profit policy. The cost of things such as: AC, faculty salary, electricity, etc. will be the same whether there are 19 or 9 students in the course,” he wrote.
Tuition revenue supports the university’s general budget, which contributes to its teaching, research and service mission, according to university spokeswoman Caitlyn Scaggs.
She wrote in an email that the policy wasn’t discussed by the school’s board of visitors at a December meeting because it was discussed last May when it was approved.
Scaggs did not say whether or not overall tuition would be raised over the next two academic years. Tuition and fees for the 2020-2021 academic year will be considered by the board during a meeting this May, Scaggs wrote.