By Lesley Weidenbener
INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana University plans to begin discounting its tuition by 25 percent for its summer sessions at its campuses in Bloomington, Indianapolis and across the state to encourage year-round attendance.
IU President Michael McRobbie said Monday that students who take a full load of classes in the summer could save about $700 to $1,100, depending on their areas of study and the campuses they attend.
The increased emphasis on summer classes will also give students more flexibility and allow the university to fill buildings that are underused from June to August, He said.
"Our goal is to incentivize students to take courses when we have capacity," McRobbie said. "I'm pretty optimistic we'll see students take advantage of this."
The move comes as IU and other state universities are under pressure from state lawmakers to cut costs, make degrees more affordable and cut the time necessary to graduate.
Indiana Senate Appropriations Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said IU's plan is an important one. "They're saying: Let's fill up these buildings in the summer time," Kenley said. "That's a great concept."
But Kenley said it doesn't excuse the university's move to increase overall tuition higher than the amounts recommended by the Indiana Higher Education Commission. For Bloomington's undergraduate, in-state students, tuition went up 5.5 percent this fall, but Kenley said for other classes of students it will go up by as much as 22 percent.
"It's pretty outrageous," Kenley said.
Still, Higher Education Commissioner Teresa Lubbers, a former state senator, said IU's plans are a move in the right direction.
"This is more than a pilot," Lubbers said. "We know there is pent-up interest in the part of students to graduate more quickly."
McRobbie will present the plan Friday to the IU Board of Trustees but he appeared assured of its passage. Still, he acknowledged the school has a number of details yet to decide.
- What classes will be offered next summer. McRobbie said the university intends to have at least as many available as in a typical summer and possibly more. Within several years, he said the course offerings should increase significantly.
- How student financial aid will be impacted. The Indiana General Assembly has taken steps to make more state scholarship funds available for summer classes but there might be problems with students who rely on federal grants, Lubbers said.
Already, about 40 percent of IU's student body – or about 43,000 students – take at least one summer class annually. McRobbie said Monday he hopes to boost that number by 10 percent in 2012 and by 50 percent within a few years.
The goal, he said, is for the summer semester to eventually operate similarly to the current fall and spring semesters.
"What's going on is really a mechanism that is going to lead, I believe, to a fundamental change in the whole way we view the year and the academic calendar," McRobbie said. "What we are going to be doing is really converting to year-round education."
Gov. Mitch Daniels did not attend Monday's announcement but he provided a statement praising the plan and urging other universities to take similar action.
"Every college and university should be looking for ways to help students get more education for their dollar," the governor said. "IU's idea to maximize use of its facilities year-found is a good one and one that should be imitated at all of our schools. I hope to see campuses full of hardworking students next summer."
The discounted tuition will be available at campuses in Richmond, Kokomo, New Albany, Gary, South Bend, Bloomington and Indianapolis. Students attending Indiana-Purdue at Fort Wayne will not be eligible because the tuition at that campus is established by Purdue University.
The above is one of an ongoing series of reports from the Indiana Statehouse by students at the Franklin College Pulliam School of Journalism.