Ball State to Pay Reward to 4-Year Grads

Ball State University is set to offer students $500 scholarships for graduating within four years, alongside other steps that could save the fee-squeezed undergraduates as much as $10,000 over the course of their college careers, writes Charles Wilson at Business Week.

As well as the scholarships, the Indiana school is looking to reduce the number of credit hours needed to graduate, cut summer tuition by 18 percent and encourage students to take online courses in an effort to curb spending.

Ball State joins the list of state-assisted schools that are looking to reduce costs. Indiana University and the University of Southern Indiana both trimmed back summer tuition.

But after heavy criticism, Indiana State University reduced a planned tuition increase for undergraduate in-state students from 3.5 percent to 1.5 percent. Ball State spokeswoman Joan Todd acknowledged that political pressure forced them to make the decision.

“We want to respond to what the Legislature has challenged us to do. We think these steps are very creative,” she said.

However, Dianne McKee, ISU’s treasurer, said the economic climate and the fact that many ISU students are first-generation college students from families that aren’t affluent played a large role, downplaying the legislative pressure.

Teresa Lubbers, Indiana higher education commissioner, said:

“I believe both the Legislature and the commission for higher education have made it clear that we believe affordability is a very important issue. And to the degree our colleges are willing to look at ways to decrease the cost for students and families, we think that’s very important.”

The four steps outlined by Ball State include:

  • Offering a $500 scholarship during the last semester to students in line to graduate within four years.
  • Reducing the number of credit hours required of an undergraduate from 126 to 120.
  • Allowing students who take 12 credit hours to take an additional six online or on campus at no additional charge.
  • And reducing summer tuition by an average of 18 percent.

“We built into this a financial incentive for most students … to be able to complete their degree within four years,” Todd said.

Ball State said in a statement that students who take advantage of all options could save as much as $10,000 over four years, claiming to seek to maximize the number of undergraduate degrees that can be completed in eight 15-credit-hour semesters.

“The focus now is on the student, and how do we help the student out,” Kenley said.