CHARLESTON, W.Va. - As West Virginia colleges and universities try to account for Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's 7.5 percent budget cuts, a bill in the state Senate would let six of them change how they calculate tuition.
The bill would create a pilot program that lets those schools charge tuition by the credit hour rather than by the semester. It would likely result in significant increases in tuition for full-time students, and decreases for part-timers. The Senate expects to vote on the bill on Wednesday.
For financial aid purposes, the federal government classifies someone who takes 12 credit hours per semester (generally four courses) as a full-time student, although 15 credit hours per semester are usually required to graduate on time. In West Virginia, students who take a minimum of 12 credit hours are all charged the same semester rate, even if they are enrolled for 15 or 18 credits.
This bill would let schools recoup the costs of those extra credits by charging for each credit hour above 12.
The bill was requested by Pierpont Community and Technical College, which has pledged to cut planned tuition rates if the bill passes. Pierpont President Doreen Larson said the current tuition system is based on an outdated view of the college experience.
"This model is based on an old style four-year model where you leave home, go to campus, are a full-time student," Larson said. "Our students are no longer like that even in four-year schools."
At Pierpont, just 40 percent of students take more than 12 credit hours per term and would see tuition rise. Across the statewide community college system, that number drops to 30 percent, according to state data. But if other participating colleges did not follow Pierpont's lead and correspondingly cut tuition rates to accompany the change, it would mean substantial tuition increases for full-time students.
Up to two other community colleges and three four-year colleges could participate in the program.