By Abigail Frazier, Staff Writer –
UT Chattanooga tuition rates and the minimum credit hours per semester will rise Fall 2019 due to the new “15 in 4” tuition model.
By taking 15 credits every semester until graduation, students will graduate in four years to complete the requirement of 120 credit hours. However, students that require more than 120 hours like students in the Engineering department, might come across a few issues with this model.
For senior and Engineering Management major, Anna Kate Tenpenny, this model would affect her in more of a negative way.
“For engineers, you have to take 15 or over anyway to get done in four years. So to me, it doesn’t make that much of a difference. However, my last semester will be 12 credit hours. So I have two graduate classes and two undergrad classes to finish my degree, so that would affect me if that was in place,” Tenpenny said.
Students in the engineering department at UTC are required to take 128 credit hours in order to graduate. By implementing the new tuition model, students in that department may have more issues than others.
UTC Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Richard Brown has become aware of this potential issue and has been working hard with the university to ensure the model will run smoothly.
“We’ve heard from students that several curriculum issues may be there that may create some difficulty to students. We are in the process of reviewing that with our enrollment management team and the academic side of the house to evaluate those kinds of issues, so I am sure we will engage some of that and find a remedy for that,” Brown said.
Besides the potential issue with some departments in regards to credit hours, this new model has already shown success at the other UT schools in Knoxville and Martin. According to Brown, UT Knoxville implemented the model in 2011, while UT Martin implemented it in 2013; both schools continue to run successfully.
Not only have the other UT schools shown promise with the “15 in 4” model, but other public universities have as well. According to Brown, “The ‘15 in 4’ is a tuition model that’s really been adopted by many public 4 year universities across the state of TN.”
Even though the other schools have successfully implemented this model, UTC found success in waiting. Brown explained the purpose behind waiting and how greatly it helped the university and the students.
“Well you know, we were doing pretty well up until that point. We have tried to hold tuition down as much as we possibly could do in those innovative years. Now we have come to a point where we really do need the additional investment to ensure we can deliver a quality program for students. I am particularly glad we held off as long as we could, but right now we see the need for additional resources,” he said.
Coming up Fall 2019, UTC will start this new tuition model for the incoming freshman. Students who are not freshman and already enrolled through UTC at the time of implementation will not be affected. Brown said the university will work hard to inform everyone of this new change.
“We will take that year to inform students, to really prepare the campus, to get ready for it. The real goal of the model of course is to decrease time to a degree for students. We are also working to increase the first year retention rates for students too to make sure students can progress. But a key component of the revenue that is gained from the 15 in 4 will be to add professors to make sure students don’t have roadblock classes.”
This model helps students graduate in four years, but sometimes students graduate later due to required classes filling up before they can sign up thus creating a roadblock in their semesters. Again, the university is aware of this and has a solution for it.
“A key component of the revenue that is gained from the ‘15 in 4’ will be to add professors to make sure students don’t have road block classes. If we cannot produce that roadblock class for you, you are here another semester. So we’ve got a real predictive software model now that students will be able to go in and actually map out a four year degree program, select courses, and we can predict the number of course sections that we are going to need for students to graduate. We are also adding academic advisors, making sure that there are efficient academic advisors to ensure you are taking the right courses, to get your degree,” Brown said.
By following this model, the university guides students to graduation in four years and ensures completion quicker. With the minimum requirement of 12 credits for full time students that is in place now, it is easier for students to graduate later than anticipated. This not only prolongs college, but can also be more expensive.
“For the most part, it allows you to complete your college degree faster which allows you to get into the workforce quicker. We think that if you attended an extra year, it may cost a student upwards of in terms of opportunity cost and tuition over $48,000 additional[ly] by missing a job in that fifth year and by another $8,000 in tuition fees,” said Brown.
The tuition will rise since the minimum credit hours will rise, however the university will create more scholarships for students who need help in that area.
“We know financially that some students may be challenged with tuition costs so we are going to use some of the revenue for scholarships for students, who may be challenged financially, their families might be challenged financially. I am really really encouraged by that,” Brown said.
With UTC faculty crunching numbers and studying whether or not this model will benefit students, they have taken their time to make sure this is the right direction to for the university.
“All in all we are not increasing tuition just for tuition increase sake, we are going to re invest these funds to ensure that students have a great academic experience, but can also navigate the university in four years,” Brown said.