East Lansing — Michigan State University on Wednesday announced a new initiative that will freeze tuition for incoming freshmen in 2018-19 at 2017-18 rates to encourage students to take loads of 15 credit hours per semester.

The initiative, known as Go Green, Go 15, is part of the 2017-18 budget that trustees approved, aimed at encouraging students to take a full load of classes both semesters and to keep the momentum throughout their college years to graduate in four years.

Additionally, students who graduate in four years can reduce costs by up to $50,000,officials say, and free up time to study abroad and do internships.

MSU President Lou Anna Simon said the goal is partly to reduce students’ overall costs but also to increase success.

“If you take more credits, no matter your preparation for the first year, you are going to graduate higher. You have better predicted academic performance,” Simon said.

While some questioned MSU’s new initiative in comparison to UM’s financial aid program that gives free tuition to students from families earnings $65,000 or less, Simon said MSU has been doing that for eight years through Spartan Advantage — a program that provides supplemental funds to cover costs of students who are just above Pell Grant eligibility and reduces their loan debts.

“At MSU, we are creating tools and programs necessary to assist because we have the unwavering belief that every student admitted can succeed,” Provost June Pierce Youatt said in a statement.

The initiative comes during an era of annual tuition increases at public universities across the state, and students taking more than four years to graduate.

In addition to the initiative, MSU trustees also approved a tuition increase in 2017-18: Resident freshmen and sophomores attending Michigan State University next year will pay 2.8 percent more at the state’s largest public university, while costs for juniors and seniors will increase 3.8 percent, following approval by the board of trustees.

That means tuition will go up $482 for lower division students, and $543.25 for upper students.

For full-time resident freshmen, costs will increase to $14,596, up from $14,114 in tuition and fees last year.

Meanwhile, nonresident tuition rates will also increase in most MSU colleges by 4 percent and graduate students will pay 4 percent more in tuition.

“It’s annoying,” said MSU senior Austin Wellette-Hunsucker before the vote. “I find it unreasonable how high (tuition) is.”

Lorenzo Santavicca, MSU’s student body president, countered the increase should not come as a surprise since the Legislature has not been investing in public universities like other states have, so students should put pressure on state lawmakers and vote.

“Our tuition hike is going to affect students, no doubt,” Santavicca said. “Every dollar counts. But at the end of the day, it’s more on our state legislators to start making more decisions to invest in Michigan State University and other universities that are doing great things for our state.”

MSU’s tuition increase comes in under the state’s tuition cap, which state lawmakers use to encourage public universities to keep increases low for in-state undergraduates. Public universities that follow the cap receive a small amount of incentive funding. The cap set this year by the Legislature is 3.8 percent or $475, whichever is higher.

MSU’s initiative and resident undergraduate tuition increase comes after nine other public universities also increased tuition ranging from 2.9 percent at UM to 3.7 percent at Ferris State University to $475 at Northern Michigan University, according to the Michigan Association of State Universities.

Wayne State University sets tuition on Friday, while Eastern Michigan University sets rates June 27 and Central Michigan University on June 29.

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