U. of North Texas Offers Fixed-Rate Tuition, With a Twist

Many colleges have fixed-rate tuition plans that lock in a student’s course costs for four years. In Texas that kind of policy is now a requirement for public colleges and universities.

But not all undergraduate students graduate in four years, adding to the time and cost it takes to earn a degree. The University of North Texas has come up with a plan that offers both fixed-rate tuition and an incentive for students to finish their degrees on time.

The “Eagle Express” plan, as it is being called, will set annual tuition and fees at $10,673 starting this fall—a 10-percent increase from this year’s costs. Students who select the fixed-rate plan will get a $3,000 tuition break from the university if they finish in four years or less. Those students may also qualify for a $1,000 “On-Time” tuition rebate offered by the state.

The university’s Board of Regents approved the fixed-rate plan on Thursday, along with an alternative plan that will lock in tuition increases to 3.9 percent in each of the next four years.

The North Texas plan is meant not only to give students incentives to graduate, but also to orient the entire university culture toward higher completion rates, said Neal J. Smatresk, president of the university, in Denton, Tex.

In order to help students graduate on time, the university will need to improve its advising and make sure it offers enough of the essential courses to prevent bottlenecks in degree pathways, Mr. Smatresk said.

How will North Texas pay for that tuition break? If the plan succeeds, the university will have more students enrolled in upper-division courses, which receive more state support, Mr. Smatresk said.

A tuition break for on-time graduates is catching on at other colleges as well. The University of Baltimore recently announced that it would give students a free final semester of college if they were finishing within four years.

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