Strengthening the Profession
Carla Gibson, Chief Content Editor
Life University recently announced a new tuition benefit for married couples in the DC program. Student Council President Anthony Umina suggested the discount as a way to “strengthen the profession” and to compete with a similar discount offered by Sherman College of Chiropractic.
I applaud the administration for being sensitive to the debt load incurred by students in the Doctor of Chiropractic program and I am supportive of those couples who both choose to pursue careers in chiropractic, however, I will be blunt. The new tuition benefit for married couples in the program offends me. How is my contribution to the profession, as an older single student who maintains a second household and “commutes” from another state to attend Life, any less valuable to the profession? How is the debt of the single parent in the program any less crushing? How is the student whose spouse is at home with young children better financially positioned to begin practice and less deserving of a tuition discount? How is the average student with no family commitments, who dedicates all of their additional time and (borrowed) money to pursuing the “parallel curriculum” rewarded for their part in strengthening the profession? Why am I being forced to subsidize the tuition of a married couple while my children forgo vacations and extracurricular activities so I can complete this program?
While it may be a fact the married couple is starting out in practice with a higher total debt, there are several built in financial benefits to the couple while in school and when starting a practice. A couple can share housing and transportation costs and can reduce their grocery bill through shared meals, effectively cutting their living expenses in half compared to a single student. In practice, the fixed overhead of a stand-alone practice is shared by two doctors who can work together to see twice as many patients as the single practitioner.
A fellow student asked me if I was offended by the discount offered for purchasing a dozen donuts vs. purchasing one. No, because providing the highest quality donut at the lowest price is dependent on selling volume and reducing waste (and I don’t eat donuts.) There are very few economies of scale in selling a chiropractic education in volume. Life must provide the same benefits to each student whether those students are married or not. There are no financial advantages to having married couples in the program from the University’s standpoint. The education received, the hours of instruction consumed, is no less for the married couple than for the single student. The only economy may be in parking, though carpooling to campus is not an eligibility requirement of the new discount. The carpooling scholarship would be very popular and would provide a benefit to all students and to the environment.
How is the University able to afford to basically give married students one free class every quarter? How is it going to strengthen the profession if the burden of covering the expenses of paying quality instructors and maintaining state of the art facilities falls more heavily on a smaller number of students, ultimately forcing the administration to again raise the tuition rate? When I started the DC program in the Fall of 2011, the per hour course rate was $292. Today it is $307. While $15 per credit hour doesn’t seem like much, at an average of 24 credits per quarter, that is $360. That is one less seminar or one less plane ticket to visit my children and I can’t even bear to calculate the additional interest I am paying on that extra $360 now interest is accruing on all student loans from the date of disbursement. Over 14 quarters, this is just $5,000, but according to what I learned from Dr. Davis in business class that could represent one-third to one-half of my startup costs. What if Life were to encourage every student to complete the program successfully by offering them a $5000 startup grant upon graduation with the option of borrowing an additional $10,000 directly from the University at a very competitive interest rate with borrowing qualifications more generous than the banks? Wouldn’t that be a vote of confidence for the curriculum being provided? And wouldn’t it be a great way to replace the investments divested when Life decided it would no longer support companies incongruent with Vitalism? How competitive could Life be among chiropractic colleges if it could boast being the only school committed to financially supporting each graduate’s practice success?
The tuition increases were regularly defended by the administration as being necessary to keep up with inflation. If the University can afford to give a $2000 per quarter discount to married couples, why do I need to pay the extra $360 each quarter? Why couldn’t the tuition rate have remained at the same lower rate for all students? Wouldn’t decreasing the debt burden for ALL chiropractors be a factor in strengthening the chiropractic profession?
Why is Life threatened by the competition from other chiropractic colleges, especially Sherman? Does our reputation, curriculum, faculty and campus culture not speak for itself? The reason cited by most students choosing Sherman over Life is class size. Assuming about 1% of the DC student body will qualify for this new program, it’s unlikely the money could have been spent to hire additional teachers, but the administration should consider addressing this top concern before increasing the number of DC students in an already crowded program through and incentive to attract more students.
Some students cite the lower cost of attendance at Sherman, but this is largely due to the lower cost of living in Spartanburg, SC and the lack of fees charged on top of tuition. At Life, the quarterly student fee is $249. With nearly 2000 students in the DC program, nearly $500,000 is collected in student fees each quarter. Obviously Life has a beautiful campus and amenities not found at other institutions. But again, if a discount can be afforded to students just for being married, certainly Life can afford other discounts that would serve to strengthen the profession.
One huge advantage to Life is the size and diversity of the student body and the clubs and organizations on campus. These opportunities are made possible by passionate students who donate countless hours and funds to maintain these clubs and organizations each quarter. By attending seminars to be up to date with the technique or philosophy they are presenting, holding club meetings on a regular basis (which can equate to 2-3 hours per week), and being available to attend Student Council and Leadership meetings required to maintain their club’s active status on campus, a student can easily spend thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours during their career as a DC student for the benefit of not only themselves, but to making Life more appealing to prospective students by providing this diversity. Of the student fees collected each quarter, $3000 (less than 1%) is “allocated” and student clubs and organizations can apply for help with funding their events, supplies and education opportunities. Again, assuming just 1% of the DC student body (about 20 students) qualify for the new marriage tuition benefit, about $20,000 (about 4% of student fees) will go toward funding that benefit for a handful of students while nearly 1000 students participate in clubs and organizations. Wouldn’t a scholarship supporting these dedicated student leaders go a long way to strengthening the profession and ensuring the quality of one of Life’s largest competitive advantages?
Ultimately, the existence of the marriage tuition benefit will just become part of the Life landscape and students entering Life will accept it as “the way things are.” However, I hope the administration will consider expanding their vision to include other, more effective ways, Life can contribute to “strengthening the profession.”
Please go to the Vital Source Blog at http://vitalsourcelife.wordpress.com/ and comment on your opinion of the discount and other ways Life could support students and strengthen the chiropractic profession.
The new tuition benefit for married couples in the program offends me
Wouldn’t decreasing the debt burden for ALL chiropractors be a factor in strengthening the chiropractic profession?
nearly $500,000 is collected in student fees each quarter