University of Maryland University College is trying a new tactic that could help boost enrollment: offering discounted tuition to out-of-state federal employees and their families.
Starting this summer, federal workers — as well as their spouses and legal dependents — will receive a 25 percent discount on tuition for all undergraduate programs and most graduate programs at UMUC, school officials announced Monday.
UMUC, which caters primarily to working adults and focuses heavily on online education, already offers similar discounts to other large employers who encourage their workers to further their skill sets by taking more classes, said Provost Marie Cini.
But this latest offer is the result of a new partnership with the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, which approached UMUC last year with the idea, Cini said.
As part of that partnership — which Cini said is unique to UMUC — “federal subject matter experts” will help develop the curricula for certain courses geared toward preparing students for federal employment, particularly in high-demand fields.
“Partnering with UMUC increases all federal employees’ access to high quality and affordable educational resources,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta in a statement. “In addition, it fosters a high-performing, well-trained workforce with the necessary skills to ensure the mission of government is met efficiently and effectively day in and day out.”
This announcement comes at a difficult time for UMUC. Last month, President Javier Miyares announced the school would lay off 70 staff members at the Largo and Adelphi campuses in an attempt to address a $25 million decrease in revenue.
The revenue slump was mostly attributed to significant declines in enrollment over the past few years. UMUC is projecting a 6.5 percent drop in enrollment this fall, on the heels of a 6.1 percent decline from 2012 to 2013.
“Enrollments are down as a result of the mature adult education market, increased competition, the downsizing of the military, and the impact of the federal budget sequester,” Miyares wrote in a letter to the university community announcing the layoffs. “Trend lines are not good.”
UMUC has previously benefited from its proximity to Washington, D.C., which — when times are good — can supply a steady stream of federal workers who enroll in classes to augment their skill sets. But thanks to federal cutbacks, that pipeline of students has partially dried up, UMUC spokesman Robert Ludwig said.
“If the federal government is cutting back, and people are either getting laid off or just not finding a job, it’s tough to swing that financial commitment to going back to school,” Ludwig said.
Although Cini emphasized the curriculum-development portion of the OPM partnership rather than the tuition discount, she said the collaboration could help win back that student population by incentivizing enrollment.
“OPM wanted to come in and help us address their skills gap,” Cini said. “… We certainly hope the partnership will be part of the answer [to our enrollment issues], but there’s no panacea. Some of it is because of demographic shifts, some of it is military draw-downs. … However, we hope each new initiative will help our enrollments to stabilize.”
UMUC offers about 95 undergraduate and graduate programs. The discount can be applied to individual courses or degree and certificate programs, most of which are available entirely online. It may not be applied toward tuition for certain grad programs, including cybersecurity, business administration and doctoral programs.
Federal employees who live in Maryland are not being offered a tuition discount because in-state tuition is already low, UMUC officials said. Even after the discount, in-state students will still pay less than out-of-state students.
For the summer semester, a three-credit undergraduate course for an in-state student would cost about $800, and a basic graduate course would cost about $1,374. With the discount, an out-of-state federal employee would pay about $1,123 for an undergraduate course and $1,483 for a graduate course.