On the fourth floor of Huntsman Hall, surrounded by large glass windows and overlooking Logan Canyon, the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business took a large step for transparency.
The advisory board on differential tuition for the school held its second ever meeting Thursday.
The 12-person board is composed of five students, five faculty members, a faculty advisor and Associate Dean of External Affairs Dave Patel.
The advisory board was the focus of a story by the Utah Statesman in November, in which it was discovered that the board had never met.
According to its charter, the board is to meet at least once a year, with auxiliary meetings to be held as seen fit by the members. The board first met Dec. 5, 2017.
The first board meeting focused on the purposes of differential tuition and allowed the students on the board, ranging from freshman to graduate students, to voice their concerns about the issues with differential tuition.
Differential tuition was implemented in 2007 to keep up with raising wages in the business field, and to provide new and better opportunities for students.
“On a regular basis, faculty that are high performing in the Huntsman School are offered jobs elsewhere, often for much more money than a professor’s wage,” said Sterling Bone, an associate professor of marketing.
Differential tuition is charged by credit hour, and the majority is spent on faculty and staff salaries.The purpose is to help fund programs that are beneficial to students and help them when they graduate, Patel said.
Students on the board said they were curious if the money was ever used for anything unrelated to student experience such as the Huntsman Hall facilities or for superfluous purposes.
“I think the real concern is the other stuff it’s being spent on,” said Hadley Burton, a marketing student and the vice president of the Huntsman Marketing Association.
Patel assured students the administration handles differential tuition carefully, and has safeguards in place to make sure the funds are properly supervised. “Every pen we buy, four people have to approve of it,” he said.
The transparency of these fund-based decisions was the most concerning thing to the students on the board.
“Trust comes with transparency,” said Ryan Hubbard.
Burton expressed concern over whether the business school realizes where the money they spend comes from.
“This is student money. We spend summers and years saving up for that, and if that can be used with that in mind, it would help a lot,” she said.
Ruth Harrison, director of the FJ Management Center for Student Success, said they always keep in mind where the funds come from when they are spent.
Harrison said there are at least two conversations about differential tuition per week at the student success center.
The Huntsman school climbs in rankings of business schools each year, and Patel said that would not be possible had it not been for differential tuition. He added that any purported lack of transparency usually starts with a lack of information.
“I don’t think it is the case of more information, but rather getting students to read the information that is there,” Patel said, citing the fact that there were only 160 views of the differential tuition webpage in November.
The students and faculty at the meeting also discussed the best way to get students to read the information already provided.
“The gap is that we push out tons of information, about all the things happening at the school,” Patel said. “We should be filling this place for each guest speaker and seminar.”
Patel said it is time to stop talking about past mistakes.
“We need to move past all that,” he said. “We need to look at what we have moving forward. We need to discuss where we are going. This is your differential tuition at work.”
The students and faculty on the board agreed, saying the effect of differential tuition make them proud to be at USU.
“Is a Huntsman degree worth more than it was 25 years ago?” Patel asked. “Damn straight,” he said.
The second meeting, held Jan. 25, focused more on pragmatic solutions to educating students about their differential tuition and its effects on the program they enroll in.
Business Senator Cody Davis recommended that the school makes sure incoming students know how much they will be paying in differential tuition.
It was also suggested that academic advisors hold the responsibility to tell the students they meet with about what they will be paying in differential tuition.
Harrison explained from an advising standpoint that she had concerns over making the advisors have that responsibility.
“I think they are one population that can inform, but not the only one,” Patel said.
The Caine College of the Arts also implements differential tuition, but instead of being decided by the administration, the advisory board reviews proposals brought by students for differential tuition funding. Davis suggested that the Huntsman School could put into effect a similar process.
Patel raised concern with the idea, saying funds from differential tuition are used to fund all students.
The members of the board agreed that the framing of information would be their greatest ally in showing students what they get from differential tuition.
“We are all in this together. We are using our funds wisely, and we’re doing things in a way that is unique,” Patel said. “I want students to choose the differential advantage.”