A couple of weeks ago the state Senate voted down HB1303 which would have given the Legislature control over setting tuition. The university system budget passed by the House, HB1003, contains similar language giving lawmakers control over tuition, but it seems unlikely that the Senate is going to keep that provision intact.

But even as the Legislature caves to the university system once again, one of the state’s largest institutions is charting a course for massive tuition hikes.

You’ve really got to admire theirĀ chutzpah.

UND is considering changing the tuition model as soon as the fall of 2016, according to documents obtained by the Herald.

Two of three options laid out in draft proposals suggest tuition increases of either 10.5 percent or 12.3 percent over this year for students enrolling in 15 credits.

But officials said this is the answer to initiatives laid out by the State Board of Higher Education for better retention and four-year graduation rates, as the plans save students money if they graduate on time.

Most college courses are worth three credits each. Currently, students take 12 credits per semester to be considered full time and are charged a flat tuition rate for taking more than that, up to 21 credits and excluding online courses.

In the draft proposal document, three different tuition increase options are laid out, two of which would decrease the charge per credit hour but increase when the flat rate kicks in to 15 credits and lower the cap to 18.

It is politically astute for UND to couch this tuition hike as merely a way to encourage more on-time graduation (currently just over 20 percent of UND students graduate in four years). Former Chancellor Hamid Shirvani won a lot of praise for his Pathways to Student Success proposal which, among other things, sought to address graduation rates. But the university presidents hated the plan – that was part of what fueled their revolt which ultimately pushed Shirvani out – and I suspect what UND is doing is aimed at undermining the State Board of Higher Education’s stated intention of implementing Pathways as policy.

In the Legislature there’s a maneuver often used to kill a bill that’s called “death by fiscal note.” That’s where the estimated cost of a given piece of legislation is inflated to the point where it becomes unpalatable to those voting on it. I think UND is trying to do the same thing to Pathways. Make the implementation so ridiculously expensive to taxpayers and students that the policy is abandoned.

What UND is proposing isn’t going to solve any problems. For students trying to work their way to a degree the added expense is likely to slow them down. For students financing their education, this policy is just likely to add more debt.

This sort of policy maneuvering is exactly why the universities can’t be trusted with the power to set their own tuition. They use it as a political weapon, over and over again.