Less than five months after the university rolled out the plan, the University of Oklahoma's new flat-rate tuition policy is already paying off, an OU official said Wednesday.
Nick Hathaway, OU's vice president of administration and finance, told the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education the university had 1,000 more students take 15 or more credit hours this year than last fall.
Although it's difficult to say what effect the university could ultimately see, Hathaway said that increase could amount to a 5 percent increase in OU's graduation rates.
Under the policy, any full-time undergraduate student who takes between 12 and 21 credits per semester will pay a flat rate for tuition and fees that is based on the cost for 15 hours per semester during the 2012-13 academic year.
OU officials launched the new flat-rate tuition policy over the summer as a way to encourage students to take 15 hours or more per semester. At the time, officials said the plan would save students money by encouraging them to graduate in four years instead of five or six.
During a June meeting of the OU Board of Regents, university President David Boren said he had been examining the possibility of a flat-rate tuition policy for several months. Other universities, including the University of Texas, Baylor University and Texas A&M University, have similar policies in place.
Most degree programs at the university require 120 credit hours to graduate, Boren said, meaning a student who takes 30 hours per year would be on track to graduate in four years. A student who takes five years to graduate would spend about $13,000 more in tuition, fees and living expenses, Boren said.
The policy includes an appeals process for students who can't take more than 12 hours per semester because of work or other personal reasons. At Friday's meeting, Hathaway said the university had received about 750 appeals, and had granted all but about 100 of them.
Most of those appeals were from students who needed to work to pay for school. A few other students appealed for “fairly extreme personal reasons,” he said.
The new policy allows students who can't take more than 12 hours to make up extra hours during the summer semester. For example, if a student takes 12 hours during the spring and fall semesters, he or she could take six more hours during the summer without paying more.
Hathaway said university officials have polled students and expect to see an increase in summer enrollment of about 30 percent. It's difficult to say whether that increase will materialize, he said, since some of those students may expect to enroll during the summer and then change their plans.
The new policy could also help encourage students to spend their summers studying abroad, since it helps subsidize summer enrollment, Hathaway said. Boren has made increasing the percentage of students who study abroad a priority.