UI works to save retention fee


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UI officials will have to cut from other areas to make up for rolling a proposed $60 student success fee into the potential tuition increase for next year.

The fee, aimed to improve retention at the UI, was initially separate from tuition. UI President Sally Mason announced she plans to incorporate the fee at last week’s state Board of Regents meeting.

The regents will not make a final decision regarding the tuition increase until their December meeting.

With the charge as part of the tuition hike, the UI’s general education fund would see a $1.2 million loss. Officials said they aren’t sure where the cuts to help alleviate the reduction will come from or how much they will total.

UI Provost Wallace Loh said officials were worried regents would cut the fee, because it, along with a recreation fee, brought a 6 percent tuition increase to 9.4 percent.

“Rather than risk it [being denied], we will eat it, and cut somewhere else. … We are willing to cut more deeply someplace else in order to reduce the 700 students we lose every year because of retention,” Loh said.

Some had questioned how the new proposal — which relieves students’ pocketbooks but won’t bring in an additional $1.2 million for the UI — was formed.

UI Student Government President Michael Currie told Mason in an e-mail that he supported the tuition increase but suggested incorporating the fee.

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Mason replied the day before the regents meeting and said she had decided to combine the two fees.

“I completely understand and agree with your rationale,” she said in the e-mail to Currie. “I also greatly value the input from our student leaders.”

Currie said he was pleased the administration considered the idea.

“She took our suggestion because we were willing to come to the table and work with her rather than simply oppose them,” Currie said.

Loh said Mason’s decision was quick but necessary because some regents had expressed concerns about the steep increase the UI was asking of its students.

The student success fee will come out of each UI student’s tuition and will go toward retention efforts. The UI’s retention rate is the lowest in the Big Ten at 83 percent, a number Loh said hasn’t budged in 15 years.

The $60 fee will focus on implementing retention programs modeled after other institutions with freshman academic profiles similar to the UI’s.

Each 1 percent increase in the university’s retention rate translates to an additional $2 million to the university’s bottom line, said UI spokesman Tom Moore.

Loh said officials hope the fee will send a message that retention is an important issue to the university’s administration.

He noted students’ tuition dollars help fund numerous programs — including financial aid and other resources — that they might not personally use.

“This program is smart financially, educationally, and morally,” Loh said. “We need to do it.”

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