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Town Hall Meeting Highlights Concerns Over Education Value
The new addition to the Huntsman School of Business contributed the need for an increase in tuition.

A town hall meeting at Utah State University on Wednesday addressed student concerns about a proposed tuition hike. The meeting, which dealt with the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business’ proposed differential tuition hike, raised questions about the changing costs and values of a business education.

While the starting salary for graduates with an MBA has remained relatively unchanged, more selective programs around the country have, on average, raised the cost three to five percent annually. In general, the annual increase in the cost of graduate degrees in business is double that of undergraduate degrees.

In responding to student concerns, Ken Snyder, the Huntsman School’s Executive Dean and Chief Administrative Officer, laid out how the school provides value to students’ education.

“We can look at it as what comes in versus what goes out. How employable are they when they come in versus how employable are they when they come out? How much can they earn when they come in versus how much can they earn when they go out? That’s the sort of metric that we like when we look at whether we are providing value," he said.

Increasing the value of a degree from the Huntsman School is directly connected to producing graduates whose quality encourages companies to hire more Huntsman School graduates, Snyder said.

“We have this trajectory of having students better prepared to perform in great companies. When they get in these great companies, they can turn around and come back," he said. "So now we’ve got this cycle of trust that’s based upon the performance of our students out in the field working for those companies. The better we get, the more companies are interested in coming here."

Snyder said the increase in differential tuition will primarily go to hiring new faculty, which he linked to the school’s efforts to optimize students’ career potential.

“Because the teaching has been great, they’ve performed so well when they get in the job function and the companies love it and they’ll come back and hire more,” he said.

One point that Snyder focused on was that market forces, especially the high demand for business professors with newly minted doctorate degrees, have driven the cost of hiring these faculty members up, and is one reason for the increasing cost of a business degree.

In March, Utah’s public colleges and universities saw a tuition hike, with the state’s board of regents mandating a minimum four percent increase. Utah students have had to borrow more money in recent years to stay in school. Between 2007 and 2012, borrowing by students in Utah increased by 102 percent, the highest increase in the nation.

While the reasons for the differential tuition increase are understandable, transparency of where exactly the money is going remains an issue, said Josh Hale, a student of the Huntsman.

“I have no issue paying the extra money,” he said. “I understand that’s an investment in my future but I need to be assured that that is actually a wise investment and I do that by seeing the numbers just like you would with any kind of investment.”

The town hall meeting with administrators eased some of his concerns about trust between students and the school, Hale said.

“I think I might have one or two more questions but I think, as a whole, I was very against differential tuition and I was worried about trusting the administration a little bit,” he said. “I think that the town hall format engendered trust between both the students and the faculty because of the compromises and things we talked about.”

The Huntsman School’s proposed tuition increase has not yet been approved by the university or by the Utah Board of Regents but the school intends for it to take effect in fall of 2015.