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What does flat rate do for you?

A June study released by the Lumina Foundation, a nonprofit advocate of higher education, places Oklahoma low in degree completion nationwide.

The state ranks 42nd.

To bolster graduation rates, schools like the University of Oklahoma and Oklahoma State University are making efforts to save students money.

They should be commended.

Both announced they would not raise tuition for the 2013- 2014 school year. OU also voted to implement flat-rate tuition in favor of a pay-percredit-hour system.

As administrators in Norman and Stillwater find creative ways to cut costs, the Oracle staff wanted to find out how ORU compared.

Step one: Discover when ORU implemented a flat-rate pay system.

Interviewing faculty provided our staff with a vague scale ranging from “I can’t recall” to “somewhere circa 1997.”

The former made sense when we found out ORU has always had flat-rate tuition.

Public schools like OU are realizing their private counterparts are on to something.

However, it is difficult to compare the Boomer, graduate-Sooner mentality to a school like ORU with a vision for holistic education.

Through the spirit, mind and body lens, this tuition method looks different. When it comes to flat-rate tuition in a whole person framework, quality trumps quantity.

Some argue taking 12 isn’t making good use of the $11,254 tuition tag per semester. Others say the frenzied march of 18.5 credit hours makes you a bad steward.

As in many things, the beauty must be somewhere in the balance.

In our research, Oracle staff talked to students and  faculty who all highlighted students’ tendency to become over-committed at ORU.

This comes on the heels of ORU’s core value “to develop the whole person in spirit, mind, and body, thereby preparing ourselves to be professionally competent servant-leaders who are spiritually alive, intellectually alert, physically disciplined, and socially adept.”

Pray, study and run fast for health requirements, all while pursuing leadership roles, good grades, a love for vegetables and that winning blend of extroversion usually equated with admirable social skills.

At ORU, living “with excellence” for Jesus can easily translate to 18.5 hours, three club presidencies, missions leadership, part-time jobs and a must-run-two-miles-every-day fervor.

But for many students, taking fewer than 18.5 hours makes it feel like they’re not getting the same bang for the buck.

And, let’s be honest, who really wants to piddle around with a $20,000+ tuition bill?

At OU, flat rate is based on a 15-hour credit rate.

That means students enrolling in 12 still pay for 15. OU, however, is making it worthwhile by waiving summer tuition for students unable to complete 30 hours in the fall and spring.

So, students taking 12 hours one semester and 15 in the next can make up the gap with a free three-hour summer class.

Many ORU students make a habit of lightening their load during the semester by taking CLEP tests, online classes and, most notably, summer courses. Taking one less class each semester could make a difference in the college experience.

ORU could ease students’ academic burdens by revising our flat rate to model OU’s summer school waivers for those taking less hours to serve the university in other ways — leadership positions, on-campus jobs, volunteer work, etc.

After all, the school wants whole, not harried, students. Tweaking the already laudable flat-rate tuition system is one more step toward this holistic end.

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