About 100 students filed into the Utah State University L. Tom Perry Community Pavilion Monday afternoon, with notebooks, backpacks and laptops in their hands.
Some arrived early, eager to score a front-row seat, while others shuffled into back rows and stood in the outside areas when the seats had filled. All students, however, attended to voice concerns and hear feedback at a town hall on differential tuition in the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.
Dave Patel, the school’s associate dean for student and external affairs, began with a presentation on the benefits and uses of differential tuition, and said graduates of the Huntsman school have seen an increase in job connections with Goldman Sachs, General Mills and other companies.
“The marketplace realizes the type of students that we’re graduating” Patel said. “This is the outcome of that cost [of differential tuition].”
Differential tuition was first implemented in 2007, and according to the dean’s office, has coincided with a 78 percent enrollment increase in the Huntsman school.
“Differential tuition is what allows us to succeed,” said Doug Anderson, dean of the Huntsman school.
After Patel’s presentation, each business school department head expressed personal gratitude for differential tuition and said it has helped them hire top-tier faculty and researchers.
“I don’t know if we could have possibly done what we have done without differential tuition,” said Jim Davis, the Management Department head.
While most students who voiced concerns echoed Davis’ praises for differential tuition, many were concerned over lack of transparency with how it is spent.
Abby Bohrer, a student who served on the 2016-17 Utah State University Student Association (USUSA) Business Council, expressed concern over the advisory board the school proposed, but never enacted, asking “how do you defend the fact that this involvement of students hasn’t been continued since it was proposed?”
“I can’t do anything about the past,” Patel responded, “those meetings didn’t happen, but we are meeting tomorrow.”
The advisory board is meeting for the first time Tuesday in the executive boardroom of Huntsman Hall. The meeting is open to the public.
“That meeting should have happened, no question,” Anderson said. “That never stopped us from listening to students, though.”
The deans also expressed a renewed focus on transparency in the Huntsman school.
“We’ve been working hard and diligently to increase the quality, but if there are some soft spots out there, we want to know about them,” Anderson said.
Anderson encouraged students to judge transparency based on the products of differential tuition, rather than the specifics of how and when it is spent.
“What I would say is judge transparency on outputs, not inputs,” he said, comparing administering the business school to the hot dog-making process, an industry he said his wife knows well because her family worked in the meat industry.
“I don’t need to know how the hot dog was made, I just need to know what it comes out as,” Anderson said.
Anderson also said faculty and staff are required to make students a priority, and face consequences if they do not.
“Student success is our top priority,” he said. “Other schools put student success as number five or six, but for us it will always be number one.”
The deans also told the crowd they would start holding office hours and implement more town halls. They also encouraged students to email their respective department heads with any concerns.
“If any of you…are not satisfied with the instructional quality you’re getting, please send us a note,” Anderson said. “Believe me, it will be read, and it will be very, very carefully considered.”
Another student spoke high praises of some of his professors, but mentioned he “would not pay more than minimum wage” for others, which Anderson said took him by surprise. In response, he said the school often hears positive feedback, but rarely receives negative, and is open to hearing more in order to make positive change.
“I want [the faculty] to keep in mind who is paying their salary,” Anderson said.