Point/Counterpoint: Tuition rates

By Perspective Staff

On Oct. 19, the Board of Trustees approved a domestic rate structure that will make out-of-state tuition equal to in-state starting fall 2018.

Reduced tuition will not save enrollment

Maddi Smith 

To combat low enrollment, NIU matched the out-of-state tuition rate to the in-state tuition, hoping to draw more out-of-state students to the university. While it’s smart NIU’s thinking creatively about the drastic 5 percent drop in enrollment since 2016, targeting out-of-state students isn’t the most effective solution. The domestic rate structure was approved Oct. 19 by the Board of Trustees.

For the fall 2017 and spring 2018 semesters, the “Select Midwest States” out-of-state tuition for full-time students, 12 credit hours or more, was $13,251, $6,635 per semester. Students that do not come from these select states, or who are international students, pay an out-of-state tuition rate of $9,465 per semester, $18,931 for the year, according to NIU’s Office of the Bursar’s undergraduate tuition and fees page.

However starting next year, NIU will match out-of-state tuition to in-state, allowing all students to pay the same amount regardless of residency. For 2017, the in-state tuition rate for full time students was $9,465.60 per year, under half the cost of out-of-state tuition.

Despite the 3 percent increase in freshman enrollment and 2 percent increase in the College of Law, NIU’s total numbers dropped from 19,015 students last fall to 18,042 students in 2017, a decrease of 5.12 percent. Total enrollment is comprised of 13,454 undergraduate students, 4,319 graduate students and 269 law students, according to an Oct. 26 Northern Star article.

Illinois is comprised of 11 public universities spread throughout, which all directly compete with NIU for enrollment. NIU’s tuition rate is near the top of the list in terms of price point compared to other Illinois public universities.

Under 5 percent of total undergraduate students are from out-of-state, meaning that the majority of students are from Illinois, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Because of this, it’s plausible that readjusting the in-state tuition to better compete with other state universities would entice more Illinois students to attend NIU.

Since most of NIU’s students are from Illinois, it makes more sense to change the recruitment demographic. Rather than focusing on out-of-state students, who are a minority on campus, the university should reach out to in-state students by offering more inexpensive and competitive pricing on tuition, let alone housing and other fees. By widening the demographic, NIU has a greater chance of actually recruiting students and won’t have to compete with universities in other states, since 72 percent of students attend universities in their home states, according to a 2014 Going Away to College study by Niche Ink.

It doesn’t make sense for NIU to focus its recruitment efforts on such a small population when there are actions they can take to combat the enrollment deficit in more effective ways. While getting rid of the out-of-state tuition price will probably have a small impact on enrollment, the changes to enrollment won’t be drastic, seeing as only 28 percent of students venture out-of-state for college, according to the information provided by Niche Ink.

Equalizing tuition was commendable move

Maddie Steen

NIU enrollment may have a good chance of a future increase since out-of-state students will receive the same tuition rate as in-state students.

“We want students nationwide to experience our unique brand of hands-on, engaged learning, and we believe elimination of this cost barrier will help us attract more students from across the country,” acting President Lisa Freeman said in an Oct. 19 press release.

Considering under 5 percent of NIU’s students currently pay out-of-state tuition, that number is not enough to even have a difference in tuition price; if only 4 percent of students are paying more, we might as well make it fair to them. Making tuition equal for all is undoubtedly righteous.

There are 42,000 out-of-state students that were already interested in attending NIU before the tuition price drop, according to Fall 2017 Out-of-State Prospects data provided by Sol Jensen Enrollment Management, Marketing and Communications vice president.

With tuition being equal for all, the chance of these 42,000 prospect students coming to NIU becomes greater than them attending a college that does not offer a comparable out-of-state tuition rate. The administration seems to want to become attractive to out-of-state students, and it has accomplished that, but it should not forget between 2000 and 2014, 64 percent of freshman students left Illinois to attend college, according to the Illinois Board of Higher Education.

While changing the price for out-of-state students could benefit enrollment, Illinois is slowly dying, which leads me to believe that we should also be focusing on in-state students if we want to save ourselves. If NIU would have thought to offer in-state students a lower tuition as incentive to stay in Illinois and help our economy while still charging a modest premium for those out-of-state, enrollment could have increased quicker than it will because of only out-of-state tuition being lowered.