A decision support system for tuition and fee policy analysis

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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

Tuition and fees are a major source of income for colleges and universities and a major portion of the cost of a student's education. The university administration's task of making sound and effective tuition and fee policy decisions is becoming both more critical and more complex. This is a result of the increased reliance on student-generated tuition-and-fee income, the declining college-age student population, reductions in state and Federal funds, and escalating costs of operation.

The comprehensive computerized decision support system (DSS) developed in this research enhances the administration's planning, decision-making, and policy-setting processes. It integrates data and reports with modeling and analysis in order to provide a systematic means for analyzing tuition and fee problems, at a detailed and sophisticated level, without the user having to be an expert in management science techniques or computers.

The DSS with its imbedded multi-year goal programming (GP) model allocates the university's revenue requirements to charges for individual student categories based on a set of user-defined objectives, constraints, and priorities. The system translates the mathematical programming model into a valuable decision-making aid by making it directly and readily accessible to the administration. The arduous tasks of model formulation and solution, the calculation of the model's parameter values, and the generation of a series of reports to document the results are performed by the system; whereas, the user is responsible for defining the problem framework, selecting the goals, setting the targets, establishing the priority structure, and assessing the solution.

The DSS architecture is defined in terms of three highly integrated subsystems - dialog, data, and models - that provide the following functions: user/system interface, program integration, process control, data storage and handling, mathematical, statistical, and financial computations, as well as display, memory aid, and report generation. The software was developed using four programming languages/systems: EXEC 2, FORTRAN, IFPS, and LINDO.

While the system was developed, tested, and implemented at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the concepts developed in this research are general enough to be applied to any public institution of higher education.