The Ball State University Board of Trustees has approved a 2 percent increase in undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees for the 2013-14 and 2014-15 academic years. It is the lowest increase at the university in 37 years. The new rates will result in a $90 per semester increase in the coming academic year and $92 per semester increase in 2014 for the majority of students: full-time, on-campus, resident undergraduates.
Trustees also discussed a proposal to significantly reduce parking fees for both students and employees during the next five years. The vehicle registration fee, required for every parking permit, would be reduced by $30, or 32 percent, in 2014-15, with no increase in 2015-16. All parking rates would be reduced by an average of 12.4 percent in 2014-15, with no increase in 2015-16, and would remain below current rates at least through 2018-19. The new rate structure would be accompanied by a new transportation fee of $20 to $50 per semester applied only to students that do not live in a university-owned residence hall or apartment. The fee would support the campus shuttle.
“What is most important to us is striking the very delicate balance between educational quality and financial affordability for Hoosier families,” said President Jo Ann M. Gora. “We have a responsibility to provide a distinctive and high-quality education that prepares students for a changing economy. We also understand families’ financial concerns. The support of the General Assembly and a highly efficient operation have helped us remain an incredible value. We offer the second-lowest tuition among our peers in the Mid-American Conference and the lowest tuition among our Indiana peers. We deeply appreciate the support and confidence of the legislature.”
The board also approved the university’s general fund budget totaling $339.3 million. The budget includes more than $13.8 million redirected toward initiatives that support the university’s strategic plan. Additional funds have also been allocated to address targeted faculty salary increases for those at the professor and associate professor rank.
The board also approved a 3 percent increase in salary funding for faculty and professional personnel, a 2.5 percent increase for staff and increases for service personnel in accordance with agreements with the bargaining unit. Consistent with a previously approved salary policy, 70 percent of each increase for faculty members, professional personnel, and staff personnel will be merit-based.
“Our value to students and the state is delivered primarily through people,” said Gora. “We recruit talented faculty members and professionals in a highly competitive, global marketplace. Talent is the largest portion of our budget and the most important factor in educational quality.”
Concerns about the university’s long term financial picture remain, however. “We have a brief reprieve but cannot lose sight of the financial challenges ahead,” warned Randy Howard, vice president for business affairs and treasurer. “While we have long been a highly efficient university, there is a downside to that point of great pride. It is very difficult to find additional savings in lean institutions like Ball State, which has administrative costs and staffing below national and peer averages. Some of our costs are beyond our control. Our budget anticipates a 13 percent increase in the cost of natural gas; costs for one of our state-managed retirement plans are anticipated to increase 14 percent, and health care costs continue to outpace inflation. While the increase in state funding is a step in the right direction and greatly appreciated, we still face challenges that must be overcome.”
The trustees accepted revisions to the University Core Curriculum (UCC) and the Promotion and Tenure Policy, advancing the university’s commitment to a relevant, high-quality education. “Enhancements to the core have allowed us to limit our programs to 120 credit hours, a step that eliminates an obstacle to four-year completion,” said Terry King, provost and vice president for academic affairs. “As we respond to needs brought about by a changing economy, we have also structured a curriculum that offers exposure to a spectrum of disciplines, even as students proceed through higher-level courses in the core.”
Changes to the Promotion and Tenure Policy will align Ball State with the preponderance of similar policies at universities across the nation. The enhancement joins promotion and tenure decisions in the same year, eliminating the possibility that promotion and tenure decisions could be made in different years. In addition, faculty will be permitted to apply for tenure, without penalty, in years five and six of the seven-year process.
“Aligned promotion and tenure, the opportunity to apply early and revised composition of promotion and tenure committees will bring Ball State in line with national practices that faculty members expect and find attractive when they are considering institutions,” said King. “It will help us in our pursuit of the best talent in a competitive market.”
The board also approved plans for a renovated Ballpark Complex, which will provide new facilities for softball and baseball, and add a proposed Football Team Meeting Complex. Both projects will be funded with private funds raised through the recently announced $20 million Cardinal Commitment: Developing Champions athletics campaign. See www.bsu.edu/commitment for more information about the projects.
In other business, the board approved the allocation of student services fees, as well as six-month extensions of its group life insurance and disability insurance plans.
Source: Ball State University, Inside INdiana Business