LOGAN — A Utah State University spokesman says the Huntsman School of Business has no excuse for not following its own guidelines regarding millions in extra tuition it collects each year.
But he said the school’s administrators have been doing their due diligence to gather input from students on how that money is spent.
USU spokesman Tim Vitale said Wednesday a Huntsman School policy requires the school to establish an advisory board to decide how to spend a portion of tuition that the school’s students pay.
“The advisory board is outlined in the (differential tuition) charter,” Vitale said. “That did not meet as an advisory committee. And that’s a failure for certain. We don’t have an excuse on that one.”
Differential tuition, which started in 2007, is charged to business students on top of tuition they already pay to the university, according to the Huntsman School’s website.
It’s charged as an amount per credit hour of classes a student takes.
Advisory board did not meet
The school’s charter, or governing document, for differential tuition says the advisory board should advise the dean on how to use the differential tuition funds. It also says the advisory board should meet at least once a year.
But that group has never met, according to Vitale.
USU’s student newspaper, The Utah Statesman, first reported that the board had not met in a story published earlier this week.
The charter says the advisory board should be made up of two or three Huntsman School undergraduate students, one graduate student, two or three Huntsman School faculty members, one or two staff members and 1 school administrator.
Administrators sought student input
Vitale said that although that group hasn’t met according to what’s outlined in the charter, Huntsman School administrators have met with students on a regular basis over the last two to three years to discuss how the funds should be spent.
“(Students) were involved in the discussions … at multiple levels and at multiple times,” Vitale said. “They’re active participants in the discussions and always have been and always will be. I have nothing to say but accolades for them for being involved, and they are involved.”
Huntsman School Associate Dean Dave Patel regularly met with students to discuss the issue, Vitale said.
In the weeks before the Statesman’s story was published, Associate Dean Vijay Kannan, who is chair of the advisory board under the charter, had contacted several students to start setting up a board meeting, according to Vitale.
In addition, the school had hosted two or three town hall-style meetings over the past two years for students to attend and ask questions about differential tuition, Vitale said. Those meetings were publicized and were open, public discussions for students, he added.
An advisory board meeting has been scheduled for Dec. 4, Vitale said. USU President Noelle E. Cockett has been made aware of the issue, and she is working with the dean and other Huntsman administrators to make sure that the charter is followed going forward.
Vitale said the Statesman reporters had “a few more questions to ask,” including if Huntsman School representatives had met with students to discuss differential tuition.
Extra tuition supports salaries, programs
As of the fall 2017 semester, just over 2,000 students are enrolled at the Huntsman School’s campus in Logan, according to Vitale.
For lower-level undergraduate classes, the differential tuition charge is $2 per credit hour, according to the school’s website. For upper-level undergrad classes, from 3000-5000 level, the charge is $157 per credit hour.
For graduate classes, at the 6000 level and higher, the differential tuition charge is $469 per credit hour.
The school collected about $8.2 million in differential tuition for the 2016-2017 school year, according to the website. In the 2015-2016 school year, just over $7 million was collected in differential tuition.
In both the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 school years, the school collected about $5.8 million in differential tuition. In the 2012-2013 year, the first year for which differential tuition statistics are listed, the school collected about $5.4 million.
In each of those school years, the majority of the funding was put toward salaries and benefits for faculty and staff members. Smaller amounts were dedicated to program support and administrative infrastructure.
Program support includes funding for student extracurricular programs, both new and existing, according to the website. Administrative infrastructure includes marketing, accreditation and other administrative support for the school.
‘We can and will do better’
In a Thursday email sent to Huntsman School students, Associate Dean Dave Patel acknowledged the lack of meetings of the advisory board. He encouraged students to reach out to school administrators with any feedback on differential tuition.
School administrators meet with student leadership groups, other student clubs and individual students on a regular basis, Patel said in the email. Administrators consider student feedback "crucial and valuable," he said.
“We can and will do better to work collaboratively with the entire Huntsman School community of students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends to achieve our aspiration to create the premier undergraduate program in business and economics,” Patel said.
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