Trustees discuss tuition restructuring proposal, OK health care plans, museum expansion

Topic: Administrative

May 6, 2011

Students may return to campus next fall to a simplified and more transparent fee structure. In response to student interest, a task force has spent two years studying the university's tuition structure and has developed recommendations for a new approach.

Randy Howard, vice president for business affairs, presented the group's recommendation to the Ball State University Board of Trustees during its May 6 meeting. The measure would make it easier for students to create hybrid course schedules with both on campus and online courses in a single semester. The proposed changes also would facilitate faster time-to-degree by offering more ways to increase the number of courses in a semester without additional charges and more affordable classes during summer sessions.

Decisions on the proposal are independent of the university's annual budget and biennial tuition-setting process. Though tuition and fees may be set at the same time, the recommendation is about the fundamental structure of the university's tuition and fees. A guiding principle from the beginning has been that the typical student —full-time, Hoosier, on-campus undergraduates— should experience little change in his or her bill from the university. 

Click here to view a table illustrating the effect that the tuition restructuring would have on tuition and fees for many students. Dollar figures from the 2010-11 fiscal year are presented as examples in both the "current" and "proposed" models. This approach allows for reasonable comparisons. The "proposed" dollar figures are not the proposed tuition and fees for 2011-12. Rather, "proposed" represents how the 2010-11 year might have been structured had the recommendations been in place.
Toward the goal of transparency, a "dedicated fee" that was included in tuition would be removed from tuition and instead itemized as defined expense: student services fee. This fee supports extracurricular opportunities such as the Pittenger Student Center and its programing, student activities including Late Nite and Emens Auditorium.

Because of the complexity of the recommendation, the presentation was informational. The board might take action in a subsequent meeting, possibly as early as May 26.

"This is an important step in adapting to the changes brought about by technology and student demand," said Howard. "Students want more flexibility, transparency and simplicity in the fee structure so they can arrange their course schedules and academic plans in a manner that best fits their situation. We are enthusiastic about anything we can do to help students reach their educational goals on time."

Health care plans renewals and changes

Better than expected results from cost-saving strategies in 2010-11, combined with additional cost-saving strategies for the coming year, have contained employee health care premiums to nominal increases in many cases.

More employees than anticipated migrated to the university's two consumer-driven health care plans, High Deductible Wellness and High Deductible HSA. These plans offer more affordable premiums for both the employee and the university and in most cases result in lower overall costs for the employee. The result is significant savings that will be partially used to reinvest in the university's health care plans and further incentivize migration to these plans.  Next year, the university will contribute a larger share of the entire premium for individuals in the Low Deductible PPO, the High Deductible Wellness, and the High Deductible HSA plans.

Medical costs are expected to rise approximately 10 percent this year when factoring in both price inflation and utilization.  However, the university has been able to keep increases in the employees' premiums to lower numbers in many cases.  In the case of the High Deductible HSA Plan, the premiums will increase at a higher rate, but the increase will be more than offset by the university's contribution to a health savings account for every member choosing this plan. Health savings accounts are similar to flexible spending accounts but have added advantages such as balances that can be carried forward at the end of every year and eventually passed on as part of an estate.

Included in the renewed plan are new provisions that require specialty drugs to be covered by the university's prescription drug provider, Medco, instead of the university's health care administrator, Key Benefits; step therapy for high priced medications such as proton pump inhibitors, a stomach ulcer medicine; and preauthorization for high cost, nonemergency tests and orthopedic surgery. The changes will reap more than $1 million in savings for the health care plan.

"What we are finding is that both the university and employees are benefiting from having more information about the true cost of health care," said Howard. "Plans that make this information more salient to consumers help them make informed decisions about their care without compromising health."

Museum expansion approved

Trustees approved a $3.6 million expansion of the Museum of Art, which will be funded by private gifts received by the Ball State University Foundation. Upon completion, the art museum will comprise the entire Fine Arts Building with the exception of space allocated for the Department of Geology and Recital Hall. Preliminary expansion plans include an elevator that would allow for safe movement of large art pieces and sufficient storage, receiving and preparation space for a burgeoning collection. The expansion will increase gallery space by approximately 50 percent, in anticipation of a large bequest of artwork from David T. Owsley.

"The timing couldn't be better," said President Jo Ann M. Gora. "Just a few days ago, we celebrated the 75th anniversary of the museum. Now, due to David's philanthropic leadership and the generosity of so many friends of the museum, students will be able to experience world-class artwork for decades to come. On their behalf, I want to express the university's deep gratitude, especially to David, for this expression of generosity."

In other business, the board approved changes to the investment policy for the trust fund that provides health care and life insurance benefits to eligible retired employees: the Voluntary Employee Beneficiary Association (VEBA) Trust and Life Insurance Continuation Fund (LICF). The changes strengthened the fund's investment portfolio and included provisions that allow university administration to make short-term investment decisions to maintain appropriate investment allocations during manager changes. The trustees also renewed the group life and accidental death and dismemberment insurance policy for employees and the voluntary student health insurance policy, the latter passing with no rate increase. A loan guarantee of up to $338,000 in the form of a 15-year first mortgage for Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity was also approved.

The meeting concluded with a presentation from Tom Collins, director of intercollegiate athletics, who provided an overview of the Mid American Conference's sport-specific strategic plans.

By Joan Todd, Executive Director of Public Relations
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