State funds slated to make up for tuition freeze

Nicole Stempak

Proposed higher education budget still 1 percent lower than current funding level

Gov. Ted Strickland’s proposed budget includes a 6 percent increase in general funding for state universities and colleges, thereby extending the tuition freeze another year.

Despite the state’s sweeping budget cuts, Strickland said tuition at main universities will not increase for the 2009-10 academic year during his State of the State address last week. Tuition will increase no more than 3.5 percent for the 2010-11 academic year. He also extended the tuition freeze for two years at branch campuses and community colleges.

Student reactions:

Beth Motrunes, senior public communications major: “I think that the tuition freeze is good because it’s not fair to students to raise it. It’s not going to affect me because I’m a senior, and I’m graduating in May, but it will affect my brother because he will still be here.”

Jennifer Dray, freshman healthcare administration major: “I think it’s good because if you’re in school, you probably don’t have the money to pay for it, and after school if you took out a lot of loans, then you can’t earn any money if you’re spending it all paying back loans.”

Ellen Weckerly, Freshman special education major: “It’s (tuition freeze) a good idea because tuition is so expensive. I have to pay for my own tuition, and if it doesn’t go up, then I don’t have to pay as much back on loans.”

Corey Shreve, Junior integrated social studies major: “I was pretty happy about it. I’m not just thinking about tuition, but also about books. When tuition goes up, it doesn’t go up by a little bit, so the tuition freeze will help students owe less on loans taken out for tuition and books.”

Darius Sampson, Sophomore architecture major: “I think it is a good decision because the way the economy is. People can’t avoid college tuition the way it is, and I think a lot of people will be happy about a tuition freeze.”

Students won’t notice a difference, said Michael Chaney, spokesman for the Ohio Board of Regents.

“Essentially, student’s next (school) year will be paying the same amount for tuition that they were paying in 2006,” he said.

In the governor’s budget released Monday, the 6 percent increase to the State Share of Instruction – the largest source of state support for public higher education – will help offset the revenue universities will lose by maintaining the tuition freeze.

Funding increased because of the nearly $280 million expected from the federal stimulus package. Money from two funds, aimed at making college more affordable and helping students graduate in four years, has also been reallocated into the SSI.

Strickland’s $2.8 billion higher-education budget is about 1 percent lower than the current funding level, meaning some programs will either receive cuts or be eliminated.

The governor has prioritized higher education in the state budget, but he also has to prioritize within the higher education budget, Chaney said.

“What the governor and chancellor have done is prioritized affordability, absolute priority, to make sure they (students) have access,” he said, adding the core components are the tuition freeze and need-based aid.

Pat Myers, director of government relations for Kent State, said the programs that have been eliminated are mainly earmarks from legislators designed for specific colleges.

However, the Ohio Urban University Program, a collaboration among universities designed to improve metropolitan Ohio, has been eliminated. Rural University Programs has also been eliminated.

Despite the cuts, Chaney said Ohio universities are faring better than other states. Some universities are cutting the number of students they are enrolling, while others are raising tuition by double digits.

“The point is we know the only way we’re going to turn the educational corner is by raising the education rate,” he said.

President Lester Lefton and Gregg Floyd, vice president of business and finance, are both out of town and could not be reached for comment.

Contact administration reporter Nicole Stempak at [email protected].