Some colleges and universities are taking early steps to trim next fall’s costs for students.
Ohio State President Gordon Gee announced last week he will ask trustees in April to freeze undergraduate tuition at OSU’s current level. That follows a similar step by the University of Toledo, which last fall froze tuition, fees, room and board for the coming year.
“We are trying to hold down all of our costs so that we make Ohio State as affordable as possible,” Dolan Evanovich, vice president for enrollment services, said. Gee wants to show the university is a good steward of state money, he said.
Gov. John Kasich’s proposed budget would include a 1.9 percent increase for higher education and would cap tuition increases at tax-supported colleges and universities at 2 percent of their tuition or the average for their sector, such as community colleges or four-year universities, whichever is greater.
President Obama echoed a similar theme in his State of the Union address this month: “Taxpayers can’t keep on subsidizing higher and higher and higher costs for higher education,” he said. “Colleges must do their part to keep costs down, and it’s our job to make sure that they do.”
Other colleges and universities in Ohio are reducing costs in other ways.
Cleveland State, for instance, has removed the upper limit on the full-time undergraduate tuition load. That means students can take as many classes as they want without paying hundreds of dollars in extra fees for each credit hour.
Baldwin Wallace University and Ashland University offer four-year graduation guarantees. If a student’s education goes into a fifth or sixth year through no fault of his or her own, the universities would pick up the tab.
The private University of Dayton promises that grants and scholarships will keep pace with rising prices, ensuring that students pay the same dollar amount out of pocket each year. Students who commit to attend by March 1 also get $1,000 a year for books.
Rob Durkle, assistant vice president for enrollment management at Dayton, said he knows of no other college or university offering similar incentives.
“We want to be a leader in the financing of higher education,” he said.
Do the initiatives signal a stronger interest in holding down costs?
Richard Vedder, director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity and a frequent critic of colleges, said it might.
“Universities are being forced by sheer economic forces to moderate their tuition increases,” said Vedder, an economics professor at Ohio University. “The pressure is on.”
Ohio State’s Gee told the Ohio House Subcommittee on Higher Education that he will ask OSU trustees in April to hold next year’s tuition at this year’s level — $10,036 for full-time, in-state undergraduates.
He said that OSU is able to do that because it streamlined operations and leased its parking operations, among other initiatives.
Decisions beyond undergraduate tuition — for fees, room and board, out-of-state tuition and law and graduate school tuition — are being analyzed, Evanovich, the vice presdident, said.
Ohio State’s freeze might not serve as the template for other tax-supported universities.
“What’s happened at Ohio State really doesn’t impact our decision-making at Kent State,” spokesman Eric Mansfield said.
He said the earliest KSU trustees would consider tuition and fees would be in May.
University of Akron spokeswoman Eileen Korey said in an email that UA administrators “commend Ohio State for taking action to limit the financial burden” and that UA administrators had not made a recommendation about tuition to trustees.
The UA law school, however, announced this month that it wants to raise tuition by 6 percent, then freeze it for the duration of the students’ time at UA.
Carol Biliczky can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 3300-996-3729.