A state mandate could change the culture of the University of North Texas, as more than half of the incoming students are enrolled in a new tuition plan that rewards students for graduating in four years.
All public universities were required to introduce a fixed-tuition plan this year by the Texas Legislature, and an unconventional plan at UNT has enrolled more students than officials anticipated.
The Eagle Express Tuition Plan has more than 4,700 students enrolled to date, including more than half of the freshman class. Students in the plan receive a $3,000 tuition credit their final semester if they graduate in four years. This also makes them eligible for an additional $1,000 state credit for graduating on time.
This means more than half of the freshmen class plans to graduate in four years. According to the most recent data from the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, the full-time four-year graduation rate at UNT is 31 percent.
“It’s going to drive change,” UNT President Neal Smatresk said. “We’re kind of used to students in public higher education taking the slow route, and now we have them signing up for the fast route.”
For those starting their college careers this fall, tuition for an undergraduate degree will be $38,691 instead of $42,744 with the traditional fixed-rate plan, which locks in a 3.9 percent tuition increase every year the student is enrolled.
Smatresk said he thinks part of the plan’s popularity is just looking at the numbers. An option that saves the family money and promotes early graduation is lucrative, he said. This also means that parents and students will be talking about finishing school on time, so students have more support and incentive to wrap up a degree in four years.
Even though he was confident in the plan, Smatresk said he and other administrators weren’t prepared for this level of participation.
“This completely shattered our expectations. We were predicting it would be about 800 students,” Smatresk said. “You can tell it’s a factor of six greater than what we thought we’d get. It’s a stunning number.”
This fall is also the only time existing students can enroll in one of the fixed-tuition plans, as it is the first time either has been offered.
A number of students from the College of Visual Arts and Design and the College of Engineering have also enrolled, because it keeps their fees at a lower rate.
JENNA DUNCAN can be reached at 940-566-6889 and via Twitter at @JennaFDuncan.