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USU business school owns up to lapse on differential tuition meetings

LOGAN — An administrator in Utah State University's Jon M. Huntsman School of Business owned up to a lapse in meetings of a differential tuition oversight committee during an on-campus meeting with students.

Dave Patel, associate dean and executive director of the Huntsman Scholar Program, addressing business majors in a town hall-style meeting Monday, took responsibility for not conducting regular meetings of the advisory committee of students, faculty and staff.

The group will meet on Tuesday after the Utah State University student newspaper The Utah Statesman reported that the advisory committee for the business school had not met since its charter was created two years ago.

The business school collects more than $8 million annually through differential tuition, on average about $2,000 more per year in addition to tuition paid across the board by all USU students.

Under Utah State Board of Regents policy, differential tuition may be assessed for specific institutional needs.

Douglas Anderson, dean of the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business, and other faculty explained how the second-tier tuition paid by business students has been used to attract some of the nation's top educators and to bolster internship opportunities for students.

The tuition has also been used to recruit high school students to USU's business school and establish initiatives on entrepreneurship, global learning and career development, among others.

Because students agreed to invest in the business school by paying differential tuition, private donors have likewise been "more interested in supporting the school as well," Patel said.

For example, the university received a $50 million gift to the business school from the Charles Koch Foundation and the foundation of the school’s namesake, Jon M. Huntsman Sr. last spring.

Anderson said new hires on the faculty are likewise informed of the additional financial effort made by students, so much so that "any mistake made in the direction of students is a forgivable mistake." Those that lean the other direction may not be so readily forgiven, he said.

Several students who spoke at the meeting said they understood the purpose and benefits resulting from paying differential tuition, however, they asked for greater transparency and accountability moving forward.

The advisory board will meet Tuesday, Patel said, acknowledging, "that was my responsibility that didn't happen."

"I don't know what else you want me to say about what happened in the past. We can't change the past," Patel said.

Otherwise, administrators and faculty vowed to do more to communicate with students, acknowledging the intense interest in Monday's meeting.

Patel, responding to the Deseret News' questions about oversight, said the school is subject to internal audits, legislative oversight, USU leadership, the university's board of trustees, the board of regents as well the Huntsman School National Advisory Board.

"We believe an education from the Huntsman School represents a tremendous value proposition. We take very seriously the financial cost our students bear and work to provide commensurate value," Patel wrote in an email.