WKU to eliminate distance learning fee


Jack Dobbs

WKU President Timothy Caboni held a Q & A session with WKU’s staff senate on Tuesday, June 1. Items discussed in the session included the budget, campus changes for the fall semester surrounding COVID-19 and removal of the distance learning fee.

Debra Murray, Digital News Editor

WKU plans to eliminate its $150-per-hour distance learning fee for online classes, President Timothy Caboni told the Staff Senate this week, saying he supports ending the fee to give students flexibility in how they take classes – even though it will cost the university $4.3 million in revenue. 

Caboni said the move to eliminate the fee comes after WKU waived it for 2020-21, when the coronavirus pandemic forced many classes into an online mode. 

“We learned this year it doesn’t matter where you sit to take a class,” he said. 

The WKU Board of Regents adopted the fee, which added $450 to the cost of a typical three-credit-hour course, in 2018 after Caboni included it as part of the university budget for 2018-19. The fee previously had been $100 per credit hour. 

Caboni said the controversial fee increase, to which students objected at the time, was proposed by David Lee, who was then the provost and is now university historian, and Ann Mead, who since retired as vice president for finance and administration, to help address a substantial budget shortfall. 

“It was a budget solution without understanding the ultimate policy implications of that budget,” Caboni said. “…It’s a disincentive for people to enroll online.” 

The Budget Executive Committee recommended removing the distance-learning fee permanently, Caboni said, and its elimination will be part of the budget presented to regents at their June 18 special meeting to adopt WKU’s 2021-22 budget. 

Removing the fee will have a $4.3 million impact on the budget, according to Bob Skipper, WKU media relations director. 

Caboni said it was a goal for classes to be more flexible so that students could take classes at WKU main campus, regional campuses, and online. 

While most students will choose to attend classes in person in the fall, especially after the past year, he said, other students may need the flexibility to be able to take courses online. 

Julia Kirchner, a sophomore from Louisville, said she doesn’t think people should be charged an additional fee to take a class online. 

“That money adds up,” Kirchner said. “It’s not fair for people to have to worry about that money, especially when college can already be so expensive. The more people worry about money, the less they can focus on classes.” 

Kirchner said after a year of online classes, some people may have realized taking classes online can be more convenient. 

“Personally, I can’t wait to have in-person classes,” Kirchner said. “It’ll be nice to get a more realistic college experience.” 

Digital News Editor Debra Murray can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on Twitter @debramurrayy