The University of North Alabama on Thursday announced a move toward a “transparent, true cost-of-attendance tuition model” for students and parents, according to a press release.
The model includes a drastic reduction in fees, fee inclusion in overall tuition cost and a “truth in advertising” methodology. The release said the model sets UNA apart from “many peer institutions.”
“UNA is extremely conscious of and sensitive to a total cost-of-attendance for our students, evidenced by the comparison to our peers, all of whom receive significantly more funding from the state to provide essential services,” said Dr. Ross Alexander, UNA’s vice president for Academic Affairs and provost.
UNA is ranked ninth out of 14 in total cost-of-attendance, which includes tuition plus fees, in Alabama. The school receives between $10 million and $20 million less annually in state funding compared to peers with enrollments between 5,000 and 8,000 students.
University officials have created “Project 208,” named for the distance in miles from Florence to Montgomery, in an effort to highlight the need for fairness in funding for UNA.
“Despite continued and chronic underfunding from the state, the University remains committed to both a competitive and transparent total cost-of-attendance model and an unparalleled transformational student experience,” Alexander said.
The impact of the new plan on students will vary depending on course load. Some students will see little to no change in overall expenses, while others will see an increase.
The maximum increase for students taking 15 hours will not exceed 4.1%, and officials expect UNA to maintain its current cost ranking for the upcoming school year.
As UNA moved toward “banded tuition” in the 2018–19 year, there was no tuition increase. The “banded tuition” model was part of the “Finish in Four” initiative, which was focused on student success, timely progress toward graduation and an increased graduation rate.
Already, in its first year, the “Finish in Four” initiative has resulted in a 20% increase in the students enrolled in 15 or more credit hours, and UNA has experienced a 2% increase in its graduation rate, which is unprecedented in university history.
The lag in funding from the state continues to reverberate across the university campus, the release said, particularly in deferred maintenance needs.
“With more than $160 million in deferred maintenance and immediate capital needs, the lack of funding from the state affects everything we do,” said Evan Thornton, UNA’s vice president for Business and Financial Affairs.
UNA President Ken Kitts notes impact of the funding deficit extends to the region.
“Over the last decade, UNA has missed out on hundreds of millions of dollars that should have come to this campus,” Kitts said. “And that translates to fewer jobs in the Shoals, fewer contracts with local businesses and less tax revenue for local governments.”