New full-time students starting at the University of North Texas this fall will now have two set fixed-rate tuition options, with one option giving students a $4,000 bonus if they graduate in four years.
In addition to the current tuition model, where students pay per semester at annually adjusted rates, the school will now offer two fixed-rate options, which should help families better plan for college costs and encourage students to enroll full time, said UNT President Neal Smatresk.
“It’s going to save them in the number of hours they take, and we’re going to get them out early so that will ultimately reduce their debt, and they’ll be debt free at an earlier age,” Smatresk said.
UNT and other public universities in the state were mandated to offer a fixed-tuition price plan this year, after a bill requiring the plans passed in the Texas Legislature last session.
The flagship plan, called “Eagle Express,” is more innovative and original, Smatresk said. The plan will have a 10 percent tuition increase from current rates for the first three years of school, costing $10,673 for tuition and fees for an entire year. Students who stick to the plan and graduate at the end of their fourth year will receive a $3,000 tuition credit from the school, and the additional $1,000 bonus from the state’s on-time tuition rebate.
The other plan, titled the traditional plan, will increase tuition by 3.9 percent each year for four years. This plan is similar to other university plans that were created to meet the state mandate.
“I sat around with the leadership team, and said, ‘What could, or should, we do that will really have a good and creative outcome, compared to just saying we’ve met that requirement?’” Smatresk said. “We quickly came to a point on a national level, that one of the big issues we have is students not moving through their higher education in a timely fashion.”
By placing the incentive in the final year of school, the Eagle Express plan offers a large fiscal incentive to complete school on time. For the traditional plan, students would pay $42,744 total for four full years of school, while the Eagle Express plan would cost $38,691 after the incentives.
“If you take the Eagle Express plan, it’s almost the same price as fixing our rate at our current level,” Smatresk said. “That’s kind of amazing in my mind, and I think it’s a really big deal. I think it’s a big enough number to get parents’ attention and attract kids.”
This is the first plan to offer additional financial incentive in the state, Smatresk said, and UNT officials plan to market it statewide, hoping to attract more students to the university. So far, the response to the plan has been overwhelmingly positive, he said.
“No other university in the state has really thought creatively about this, so we thought, ‘Why not be innovative, do something exciting, and use that to recruit great students and give them a break?’” he said.
While the plan will cost the university some tuition income in the long run, Smatresk said he and other university officials think that this will encourage more students to be full-time and graduate on time, meaning state funding would increase.
Currently, 23 percent of UNT students graduate in four years, and with the Eagle Express plan, the university hopes to increase the retention figures.
“We’re really hoping that people will stand up and take notice,” he said. “I don’t think this plan will be for everybody, but when a student comes in highly motivated and knows what their career plan is, this is going to be a really attractive option for them.”
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.