The University of Toledo on Friday announced three ways it is making higher education more affordable.
The tax-supported university will offer free housing to transfer students for the coming spring semester, freeze tuition and fees for the 2013-14 academic year and give current freshmen who live on campus a 25 percent discount on housing next year.
Larry Burns, vice president for external affairs, said UT wanted to make the offers known now because finances are one reason students don’t return to campus.
“We feel very, very strongly that we can’t continue to raise the cost,” Burns said.
These are early days for public universities to establish their tuition, room and board rates for fall 2013. That usually happens in the spring.
In recent years, the Ohio Board of Regents, which coordinates public higher education statewide, has held universities to 3.5 percent tuition hikes.
But UT’s enrollment, like most tax-supported universities statewide, was down last fall.
The state decline on main campuses averaged 1 percent, with UT down 4.9 percent; the University of Akron, 3.2 percent; and Youngstown State, 5 percent, for example.
By setting its rates early, UT has the chance to build enrollment and fill a couple of hundred empty beds in its residence halls, Burns said.
“We’re about 75 percent filled,” he said.
All Ohio colleges and universities face the prospect of shrinking enrollments. The number of high school students is declining and the number of adults returning to college to improve their job prospects apparently has reached its peak.
It is unclear if other universities will follow UT’s lead.
At Kent State, where main campus enrollment grew 2.8 percent to 27,706, spokesman Eric Mansfield said each university has to consider its own finances.
“We’re certainly sensitive to the rising costs,” he said in an email. “We’re always looking at options to ease that burden.”
Jim Tressel, UA vice president for strategic engagement, said the university was in “the midst of quite a bit of discussions. That’s first and foremost on our radar.”
He said his division is formulating ways to ease the burden on students but isn’t ready to announce them.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 330-996-3729.