Before voting to increase undergraduate student tuition by 2.5 percent, the UNM Board of Regents elected to hold off on voting for an online course delivery fee redistribution proposal, in order to do some fine-tuning.
Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management Terry Babbitt presented the proposal at Tuesday’s UNM Board of Regents’ annual Budget Summit, saying that it would help the University’s presence in the online classroom medium.
“We’re trying to be competitive in the distance education environment,” Babbitt said.
According to the Division of Enrollment Management, students pay about $100 to take a 3-credit online course, or $33 per credit hour.
The proposal called for that number to lower to $10 per credit hour for online courses, with the rest distributed amongst the general student body, the great majority of whom are utilizing an online infrastructure such as UNM Learn for their courses.
The change would scatter the infrastructure cost of UNM Learn among those who actually use it on a regular basis, according to the Division of Enrollment Management.
Babbitt said the number of students signing up for online classes has steadily been on the rise since 2012; a 16 percent increase in students that take some online courses and a six percent hike in students who exclusively take online courses.
According to the Division, 11,939 students in the 2015 school year took at least one online course, while 17,608 did not.
But when it comes to web-enhanced courses and hybrid courses (courses with a substantial online component), the numbers are different. Over 19,000 students, or 65 percent, took at least three web-enhanced courses this year, according to the Division, compared to a little less than 10,500 who did not.
There are only 2,750 students who did not take a single online, hybrid or web-enhanced course this semester.
“Web-enhanced (courses) are really critical for e-learning and our learning future,” Babbitt said. “We get a lot of responses from new students that say ‘I don’t know what I’m taking, I don’t know where I am,’...(Learn) has made that more readily available.”
Deborah Pacsynzki, a writing instructor at UNM who teaches some courses online, said that the Regents should ensure they are being as transparent as possible in terms of creating the best possible scenario for an online course fee redistribution plan.
“I utilize the Blackboard Learn system in my face-to-face classes also, and maintaining this learning management system for all students is, and certainly already has been, part of the tuition students pay,” she said.
The change would have students pay about an additional $160 per year for those taking 15 to 18 credits, a figure considered too high by the Regents, who are already generally hesitant about straining the wallets of students any further than they need to be.
Regents President Rob Doughty made that very clear to Babbitt on the proposal, saying that while he was in favor of it, more research and planning needs to be done.
“I want you to go back and really focus on how the University can absorb some more of the charges,” Doughty said. “I just think we have some more work to do on looking at this issue.”
While the proposal is tabled for now, the Regents did approve a 2.5 percent tuition hike for undergraduate students on main campus, amounting to about $129 more per year.
David Lynch is the managing editor at the Daily Lobo. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @RealDavidLynch.