The numbers are in: Enrollment was up three percent this summer across the Indiana University system but gains fell short of what school officials predicted when they announced a 25 percent tuition break.
Officials had hoped more students would take advantage of the discount, bolstering enrollment 10 percent. Public universities have been under fire at the statehouse to control costs and increase the four-year graduation rate.
IU spokesperson Mark Land says enrollment was up at every campus except South Bend. In total, more than 29,000 enrolled in summer classes. Land says gains were greatest at the IUPUI campus in Indianapolis, where more non-traditional students attend classes.
“This is one way we can offer immediate savings to students,” says Land. “We have a group of students who are going to be in summer school anyway.”
Land says he heard anecdotally that parents of students at the school’s flagship campus were excited about the tuition discount.“Most of the leases their kids have taken out on apartments are year-round leases, so parents are eating three months worth of rent,” Land says. “They told their kids to stay in Bloomington, get a job, take some classes.”
But summer enrollment was only up about one percent at the Bloomington campus.
Student Still Balk At Cost
Even though some IU officials had predicted more significant gains, Land says they’re still counting the program as a success for the students who did take advantage of the discount. He says there are also benefits for the university, which has to maintain facilities during the summer months even when student populations are down.
IU president Michael McRobbie told StateImpact last fall that increasing capacity in the summer would help the university shift its academic calendar to fit the needs of the 21st century. Purdue plans to move to trimesters over the next decade.
But there are also barriers — chiefly, as tuition increases, more students are working full-time in the summer to pay for classes in the summer and spring.
Ricky Rojas, an IUPUI student, told StateImpact when the cuts were announced he couldn’t afford to take summer classes, even with the tuition discount, student loans and military pay from the Indiana National Guard. Laura Douglas, an IU Bloomington student, says the savings were nice but didn’t encourage friends not already enrolled to take summer classes.
Land says a decision hasn’t been made to offer summer tuition discounts in the future.