UIndy tuition increases, Retention Strategy develops to support students

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The University of Indianapolis tuition will increase to $33,252 for the 2022-2023 academic year, according to an email from University President Robert Manuel on Jan. 21. Full-time tuition will increase $1,280, and other costs, such as meal plans, room and board, and overall student fees will increase $600. This is the largest tuition increase over the past four years, during which time annual tuition increases averaged $1,028, according to an article from The Reflector

Manuel said conversations about tuition increases are always difficult, especially during COVID-19, but that increases have to be made for UIndy to continue to provide the desired level of education. 

“Especially at a time like this, where we have to make sure that we’re taking care of people in different ways, and providing the connectedness and the education that we have, and to be good stewards of the tuition dollars that come in, we have to find it necessary to make those adjustments,” Manuel said. “ … If anybody finds themselves in need of conversations about affording their tuition, there’s both the Office of Financial Aid, which has always been there, but now Sunni Manges [associate vice president for retention strategy] who put her name in that letter specifically. We hope they [those concerned about affording their tuition] would reach out to her or to the office [Students Solution Center] to have conversations about how to proceed.”

Manuel said in the email the increases will be put toward UIndy programs and enhancements, ranging from COVID-19 responses, security expansion, wireless networks and healthcare expansions to academic and student support. He also encouraged students who are struggling financially to use the newly created Student Solution Center. 

“It’s really important that they [students] understand that the amount of money we’re giving back in financial aid helps defray, for students that are here, the cost of attendance, and that the access to that for people who are in need of aid to help them stay here is Sunni [Manges] and the financial aid office,” Manuel said. “[It’s] critical at this point, because we know that COVID[-19] continues to impact the economic situation of so many, [so] we want to be sure that we’re helping them through those situations at this moment in time.”

Graphic by Jazlyn Gomez

Prior to her new role in the Student Solution Center, Associate Vice President for Retention Strategy Sunni Manges said she worked in the Office of the Registrar, the Office of Financial Aid and within the Center for Advising and Student Achievement (CASA), and that experience is what makes her skill set perfect to help students who are having issues. She said she has been busy, which shows that her office is important and in helping people, but that is both positive and negative, because it also shows how many students are dealing with financial, academic and mental health issues. 

According to Manges, the Student Solutions Center is a one-stop shop for students for a plethora of issues they may be having. She said one of the significant advantages of her office is that now, instead of a student being sent to different UIndy offices such as Financial Aid and the Registrar, she and her team can communicate on behalf of the student, speeding up the process. 

“You guys [students] don’t have to do all the running around and guessing and trying to figure it out and tell your story 5,000 times,” Manges said. “You can just tell it to us once, and then we’ll do the work on your behalf to make sure that you get your answers.”

A lot of what Manges works with is the financial side of students’ issues, she said, so she has the ability to set up payment plans herself that may be more flexible than those provided by the Office of Financial Aid. One of the largest parts of her role as associate vice president for retention strategy is to help students in any way possible so they can stay here at the university, she said, and the biggest part of keeping students at UIndy is the relationships around campus. 

“I feel like if students feel like they belong and students have the relationship [with] and students have that connection to the university, they’re going to do what they can and find ways and work with us to help make it happen,” Manges said. “I think even if a student needs some additional assistance, but they don’t feel a connection to the university, it’s not worth their time to search those out and talk to me and find a way to make it happen, they’re gonna leave. I think having that sense of belonging and community and connection to the university is the absolute number one thing that we need to do with retention.”

Manges said that another important aspect of student life where she has seen changes is the behavioral tendencies of students, so her office does a lot of work to help students, and help faculty understand the new generation of college students. She said that there have been, and will continue to be, rapid changes in the way students interact with the university due to COVID-19. 

“We’re all behaving differently than we did and I could see that especially in the freshman and sophomore classes that came through, versus the freshmen and sophomores that are now juniors and seniors. Their behavior was very different,” Manges said. “[Some] students are a little bit more leery about going out, and then you have students that want all online; and then you have the exact opposite . . . students that want everything in the classroom and everything in between. And you can’t really cater to everybody, and there has to be a balance with those.”

The Student Solution Center has concern forms that students, faculty and staff can fill out, and Manges said she has received numerous forms from professors regarding student attendance. She said because of the online semesters, students are struggling with returning to an in-person format. Manges said that any student struggling with different aspects of their education should come to her and her team for

“They [students] come to me, and I look at the whole picture and can see all aspects of it …,” Manges said.

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