Texas Wesleyan President Frederick Slabach opened Tuesday’s 2020 Town Hall meeting to students after continuing concerns about the credit hour block changes.
Slabach followed discussing university updates with answering questions submitted by students and faculty, and then did a Q&A with students asking questions in person. The in-person questions were all about the new block rate.
He prefaced answering the in-person questions with noting that Wesleyan has the third-lowest tuition of its peer intuitions. He also said there’s still a discount for students built into the new block rate.
“The block rate is based on 15 credit hours. If you take 16 credit hours on the block rate, you will be getting a discount,” Slabach said. “You will only be paying for 15 credit hours, so you will be getting a discount of $1,010. If you decide to take 17 credit hours, you’ll pay the block rate plus $1,010 and that’s still a $1,010 discount for the 17 credit hours. Likewise, with the 18 hour credit rate, you’ll only pay for 17 credit hours. So there is still a discount that it built into the block rate, if you decide you want to take more than the 16 credit hours in a semester.”
Once questions were opened up, one of the concerns that did get addressed was student input into decisions on campus. Slabach encouraged students to get involved with SGA, due to their success with the block waiver.
“Students did have significant input with the waiver process,” Slabach said. “That was brought to us by the students. That was a significant concern, and we were able to take that into account. We do have to look at the entire university, and we have to look at the entire investment that we have made in the university to provide the quality education that we do. We were able to take into account that particular student concern about majors that require more than 128 hours, and we were able to build in a waiver.”
Another concern raised by a student was students that change their major and have rough starts trying to graduate in four years under the block rate.
“The students that change their major their sophomore and junior years are going to find it very difficult no matter what their major is to graduate in eight semesters,” Slabach said. “I understand the difficulty that changing majors causes students because there are obviously all those additional courses that have to be taken, and you’ve already earned a lot of credit hours, so it’s going to be very difficult for a student that changes his or her major at that date and stage to be able to do that (and graduate in eight semesters).”
Slabach also addressed the concern student had with trying to have double majors or minors with this new block rate.
“It’s very hard for students with double majors to graduate in eight semesters at any university,” Slabach said. “Students who wish to graduate with double majors may have to stick around for more than eight semesters in order to be able to do that. Those are choices that students make, and it has to be balanced against investment that students want to make in their education.”
Slabach said a lot of the student concerns with the block rate changes are connected to the credit hours each major requires for students to have to graduate. He said the university is working to change this to help resolve some issues.
“Right now, the provost is actually meeting with the faculty council to start talking about curriculum reform efforts that will reduce the total number of credit hours required to graduate to something akin to 120 to 124 credit hours,” Slabach said. “That is something that we hope will be a fast track. Faculty process are a thing that take some time to get done, so it’s not going to be able to be done in time for the fall semester, but that would resolve a lot of the issues that are being brought up in terms of degree plans and total number of credit hours required for a major.”
Slabach wants students to accept the new tuition changes because he believes it accurately reflects the quality of education.
“We believe that this tuition rate accurately reflects the cost of investment that we provide with quality of education coupled with the fact that we provide significant amounts of financial aid both in merit and as well as need-based aid to the students,” Slabach said. “We think that this is an extraordinarily affordable tuition as well as a very reasonable investment to make in terms of your education.”
While Slabach stressed that the rise in tuition reflected the quality of the education at Wesleyan, several students said they do not agree. Students also didn’t seem to be satisfied with his answers and lack of answers on some issues.
“I feel like it absolute did not answer any questions,” freshmen criminal justice major Michelle Feyisetan said. “He went around the questions that were asked and keep talking so people would forget what they originally wanted to say. He just inputted a bunch of things that weren’t necessarily true about how the quality of education is reflecting the amount of tuition that we have. I know for a fact a lot of my teachers aren’t giving me enough quality education. One of my teachers didn’t even show up today. I just want to say that I’m very disappointed in this town hall meeting.”
Junior education major Hannah Six said she felt like Slabach didn’t get to heart of what questions the students were really asking.
“I felt the president was very diplomatic and friendly, but I don’t feel like he addressed many of the main concerns,” Six said. “I felt like he kind of went right over them and said whatever he had written down. I felt like during the questions he was a little defensive, which I don’t blame him for being defensive, but he could have taken in what students said a little more.”
Six also had several questions left unanswered because the meeting ended at 1 p.m. She wanted to know whether Wesleyan’s peer institutions also have 16 credit hour block rates; what retention efforts Wesleyan is making for current students; and what considerations the university is making for freshmen with undeclared majors.
“There are efforts to bring in new students, but I don’t see any efforts (to retain students once they are here),” Six said. “I’m the one who brought up the question about them bringing in parking lots and lights, you know things that we actually need, and he’s like, ‘Oh we did that’ instead of listening to hear that we really need that stuff.”
Video by Alpha Diallo