Flat Out

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Flat-rate tuition explained

Michigan State University has been squirming under the national spotlight and media microscope as of late, and amidst the power vacuum and general mayhem, it has managed to slip some internal restructuring through the cracks. It’s largely gone unnoticed, and unannounced. 

For those caught unaware, the coming fall semester begins the implementation of flat-rate tuition for MSU students, meaning as long as you take between 12 and 18 credit hours each semester, (roughly four to six classes), you will be charged the same flat rate. Students will no longer be charged by credit hour, as they have in previous years, and as is standard across the nation. Instead, students who maintain the minimum hours to be considered full time will have the opportunity to take up to 18 credits worth of classes each semester without worrying about how they can afford it. This also means that students who fall above or below this recommended range will be charged by the per-credit-hour policy.

You may be thinking that this sounds perfectly reasonable, but considering the actual logistics of this may paint a different picture. According to the Office of Admissions, in the 2017-18 school year, freshmen and sophomores paid $482 per credit hour, and juniors and seniors paid $543 per credit hour. If a student were to take the 12 credit hours needed to be considered full time, they could expect to pay between $5,784 and $6,516 per semester, or $11,568 – 13,032 a year, depending on how far along in their degree they were.

For the 2018-19 school year, credit hours will range from $482 – $555, again depending on your class status. Unfortunately, they aren’t charging by individual credit hour, they’re charging everyone the base estimate for their grade level at 15 credit hours. Under flat-rate tuition, all students will be charged between $7,230 and $8,325, coming to roughly $14,460 – 16,650 a year. These numbers don’t include room and board, which the Office of Admissions estimates will come to around $10,272. Those hit the hardest by this change will be out-of-state, international and non-traditional students, who already pay more.

This is a dramatic jump, attributed to the assumption that students will take on more classes to make the increase worth it. But that isn’t necessarily the case. For many students, 12 credit hours is already a lot of work. Career Services on campus claims to have roughly 17,000 students on MSU’s payroll in a given year, and many students seek employment off campus, on top of seeking out internships and positions in their desired fields. Anyone who has worked multiple jobs knows it can be hard to multitask and time-manage, but imagine you’ve got to juggle four or five jobs at a time, with take-home work for each, on top of maintaining a social life and finding time for clubs and extracurriculars that will bolster your resume for future employment, do laundry, eat and sleep!

Whatever may come of the following school year, it’s very apparent that this tuition change has more to do with financial and reputational gain than it does with benefiting the students. One can only speculate the impact it will have on the university in years to come.