Tuesday, December 07, 2004

Found money, "blood money" 

I got a note from Brett Swaim, proprietor of The Northerner, pointing out his post on the disposition of SCSU's budget surplus. He wonders what I think of this. Unfortunately, I haven't said much about this because of personal events, events in Ukraine and the fact that I am on a committee discussing the surplus too and I'm not allowed to talk about that committee's proceedings. But I will say this: When Jesse Ventura was governor one of the few things he did that I liked was the "Jesse check", a rebate of extra tax revenues that were paid in during the high-revenue-generating years in 1998-2000. It changed the dynamic in St. Paul from "it's our money, how do we spend it?" to "it's your money, so we're giving it back". I feel the same way about this surplus at SCSU. It's student tuition money, so we should give it back.

My idea -- the committee I'm on doesn't act on this type of issue so I'm free to say this -- is to create an incentive for better student credit-taking behavior. Why not offer students who take 15 semester credits and pass them a voucher for three additional credits if they take 12 the following term. They would take 15, prove they are capable of handling the load, then induced to take 15 again. That way, if they take 30 per academic year, they will be on track to graduate in four years. Our biggest problem at SCSU with students is that they will not accept a 15 credit load: They want to work 30 hours a week, party like rock stars, and still call themselves fulltime students to stay on mom and dad's health insurance. We do not have "banded tuition" at SCSU (where you pay one price for a full load of, say, 13-17 credits).

The money goes back to students, we get students graduating faster, more may stay on campus, and we increase enrollments. It seems to me a winner all the way around, and drives the money to the students who are actually engaged as students.

The only drawback, as someone pointed out, is that it doesn't help former students like Brett.