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IU Grade Incentive Reduces Costs But Might Not Motivate

Students on IU's Bloomington campus received $300 incentives.

Photo: Daniel Robison

Students who earned a 3.0 GPA or better last year should expect a payout from the university.

A $414 tuition hike for in-state Indiana University students received a less than warm welcome from State Budget Committee members when it was proposed last year, leading committee chairman Luke Kenley to threaten the school with reduced building funding.

Rather than repeal that raise, IU President Michael McRobbie proposed an incentive program that would offset most of the charges if students keep their grades up. But some people question whether the program actually acts as an incentive.

When IU President Michael McRobbie announced the program last year, he said he hoped it would encourage students to keep progressing toward graduation.

“I think one of the most important things we have to do is do all we can to maximize the number of students who continue at the university, at their campus from year to year, but who get degrees,” McRobbie said last year. “And it’s also important that students feel that there is something that they can do to make their college education even more affordable.”

Last spring 2,723 seniors on Bloomington’s campus qualified for the incentive grant, costing the university about $816,000. University-wide, more than 4,000 seniors received checks for a total cost of about $1,188,600.

IU spokesman Larry MacIntyre said officials have not yet calculated the number of incentive grants doled out to underclassmen, adding that those numbers won’t be available until well into the fall semester. McRobbie announced last year, he expected the total cost of the program to be around $3 million. But some question whether those dollars being spent are accomplishing all of the university’s intended goals.

Here’s how the process works. An instate student who takes at least 12 credit hours and receives a 3.0 grade point average or higher for the entire school year is eligible for the award. $200 are given to students from satellite campuses, like IU Kokomo.  IUB students get $300.

The money is sent to students’ bursar accounts to help cover tuition costs and is marked there as an IU incentive but that’s all the information that’s given…and that’s the problem. And that assumes that students are checking their bursar accounts themselves. A trip to the bursar’s office during move-in week reveals a room full of mostly parents with questions about their children’s bills

Seniors whose bills had been paid by the time IU sent out incentive money received checks from the university—but the checks came with no accompanying letter or explanation.

MacIntyre said he assumes students are aware of the program, working toward it and expecting the payout. He said he’s sure students learned about the incentive program through local media.

“Last summer when this program was announced it was widely covered in the local newspaper, and the student newspaper, and electronically in the electronic media and I’m pretty sure that most students were aware of it,” MacIntyre said.

But, Indiana University Student Association Student Body President Michael Coleman said he’d never heard of the program.

“I read up on it after you talked to me about it.”

Coleman adds IU shouldn’t count on the media to keep in touch with its students.

“Just assuming that the IDS and other things are going to get to all students isn’t the best way to go because some students live off campus and they might have classes three days a week and the other days they’re not even on campus, so they’re not really even looking at a newspaper,” Coleman said.

But beyond that, he says $300 isn’t really even enough cash to make him want to work harder.  University officials have not announced yet whether they plan to continue the program in the coming year. Senator Luke Kenley says he hopes they will, despite the fact that he says it seems the university is missing out on an opportunity by not promoting the program better.

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