News and Tribune

October 14, 2012

A return on investment: IU offers all campuses four-year completion incentive


> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Students finishing their bachelor’s degrees in four years could get a check written to them by Indiana University.

Michael McRobbie, president of IU, announced a plan earlier this week to reimburse juniors and seniors who are on track to graduating on time for any tuition increases during those two years starting in 2013 — including students at regional campuses like IU Southeast.

Jenny Johnson Wolf, director of university communications at the New Albany campus, said though much of the campus’ student body isn’t likely to take advantage of the incentive — because it’s largely a commuter school — it’s good for students who do plan to graduate in four years.

“I don’t think it will be difficult for them to take advantage of it,” Johnson Wolf said. “I think it’s an interesting incentive. Any way to make education affordable is a big step for IU.”

She said the program is based on students meeting certain milestones the show they’re on the way to graduating in four years, but IU hasn’t shown the details of the milestones to the regional campuses yet.

She said if a student attends IU Southeast for four years, taking 15 credit hours a semester and attends only fall and spring semesters, their degree will cost about $26,300. Tuition increases for the last biennium came in at 2.5 percent last year.

She said while those numbers are more affordable than some four-year degrees in the region, getting a rebate for finishing on time could help students a little.

The school does have some residential students who are more likely to pursue a four-year plan, but Johnson Wolf said more than 94 percent of the IU Southeast’s student body are considered commuter students.

On top of that, she said if the school defines nontraditional students as 25 years old and in college, those students would make up 33 percent of the total enrollment.

She said because most of the students at IU Southeast graduate within six years, the four-year graduation rate isn’t something they track very closely.

“Our students aren’t on the four-year track necessarily,” Johnson Wolf said. “Another thing is our comp rates don’t take into account students that transfer in or transfer out from us.”

Many of those students work one or more jobs and attend school part time — considered less than 12 credit hours per semester by IU Southeast — which can extend the amount of time they need to complete their undergraduate degrees.

But Johnson Wolf said the program is a way to encourage students to complete their degrees and enter the work force sooner.

“Because our student body is comprised of people who work, so for a lot of our students, a four year completion program isn’t something they’ll take advantage of,” Johnson Wolf said. “But for those who can take advantage of it, it’s just one more way IU is trying to make education affordable.”