Dear Friend of Indiana University,
As you likely have heard or read in recent months, American public higher education has been grappling with several interrelated issues regarding the cost and value of a college education that are of significant concern to students, their families and indeed public officials and university administrators.
These issues include college affordability, on-time graduation rates, student debt and financial literacy and a desire for greater efficiency and more accountability in the way higher education dollars are spent. While much of the public debate has focused on the need to slow tuition growth, at Indiana University we feel strongly that these issues demand a comprehensive set of solutions that provides powerful incentives to, and demands accountability from, all stakeholders in higher education.
For that reason, we have publicly supported the idea of university funding being subject, in part, to performance measures based on the degree of success that a university has achieved based on their mission and the expectations of the state. In Indiana, those measures appropriately include metrics such as on-time degree completion, student debt levels, cost-per-degree, learning outcomes, the success of students and job placement rates post-graduation.
Similarly, IU is committed to providing tools and incentives to our students that will help them earn their degree in four years or less and lower the cost of attending IU, and thereby reducing their overall debt load. We also have recently launched a comprehensive program designed to help our students achieve greater financial literacy so that they better understand all aspects and implications of student debt and what they can do to control it.
We believe that a comprehensive but targeted approach, one that addresses all of these interrelated issues in higher education, is the right way to proceed. And we believe that our students can and should be partners with us in working to solve these problems.
In the coming weeks we will be looking at all the factors that go into setting tuition for the next two years. I have publicly said that I intend to recommend to our Trustees a tuition number that is consistent with our policy of keeping an IU education as affordable as possible. As we prepare to present our tuition recommendation, I feel it important to share with you the significant steps we have already taken to freeze, and for many students significantly reduce our existing tuition rates. These programs apply to all undergraduate students across all IU-managed campuses in the state.
Summer session tuition discount
Starting last summer, IU reduced summer session tuition for in-state undergraduate students by 25 percent and provided an equivalent dollar reduction for out-of-state students, saving IU students $12 million. By encouraging more students to attend class during the summer, the university is able to make better use of the infrastructure that we pay for year-round, but much of which is under-used in the summer. Perhaps most importantly, the program — which will continue this year — provides a powerful incentive for students to remain on-track to graduate in four years.
On-time graduation completion award
Starting this fall, juniors and seniors at all IU campuses who are on track to graduate in four years will have their tuition and fees effectively frozen at current levels through an on-time graduation award that will offset any increases in tuition and fees the student otherwise would have incurred in their last two years of study. The “Finish in 4” program is another example of IU’s holistic approach to the related issues of college cost and on-time degree completion.
As we have demonstrated through our actions over the past year, Indiana University is acutely aware of the significant economic challenges facing many of our students and their families today. We have worked diligently to approach these issues in a comprehensive and thoughtful manner that both requires that the university continue to look for ways to operate more efficiently and empowers our students and their families to play a greater role in meeting these challenges.
Even as we continue to address these issues, I am pleased to report that Indiana University fares very well in a number of metrics as calculated by the U.S. Department of Education. For example, the net cost of attendance at IU Bloomington is the lowest in the Big Ten, and loan default rates among IU Bloomington graduates are roughly one-fourth the national average.
I also am extremely proud that IU has been proactive in addressing tuition and student debt concerns head-on, rather than wait for the formal budget-setting process. I assure you that my tuition recommendation for the next two years will be in line with our recent work to keep an IU education, already considered a “best buy” by many higher education observers, affordable.
If you would like to learn more about our recent initiatives to reduce cost of attendance, lower student debt and improve financial literacy among our students, I encourage you to visit affordability.iu.edu. And, as always, thank you for your continued support of Indiana University.
Michael A. McRobbie