Ohio takes historic step in freezing college tuition

Christina Stavale

Beth Johnson, senior political science major, has seen several tuition increases in her years at Kent State. When she found out she would not be paying any more money this year because of the state-mandated tuition freeze, it was “good news” to her ears.

“It’s really great,” she said. “It helps a lot with loans and stuff.”

Gov. Ted Strickland signed the state’s two-year budget Saturday, which includes a two-year freeze on tuition for state colleges and universities along with a number of other items to benefit higher education.

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said this is the first time in at least 35 years tuition has not increased at Kent State, and in recent years, tuition has increased 5 or 6 percent a year.

“This is fairly historic,” he said. “It’s a significant event.”

In exchange for the tuition freeze, universities will be receiving a 5.6 percent increase in funding from the state for the first year and a 9.8 percent increase in the second year. Creamer said Kent State will receive $4.8 million from the state in 2008.

“This budget provides Ohio colleges and universities with the strongest level of state support for higher education in recent history,” Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said.

A total of $533 million more will be put toward higher education in the next two years in comparison to the past two.

Johnson applauded Ohio’s government for making this investment in a time where so many jobs demand a bachelor’s degree.

“It’s really important for the government to be helping out,” she said.

Ohio’s budget does not require universities to freeze tuition for graduate students. Kent State, however, made the decision to extend the freeze to graduates out of recognition that tuition increases are a burden to all students.

Also, with a number of Ohio colleges increasing tuition for graduate students, Creamer said Kent State’s freeze on graduate tuition will allow for competitiveness and higher enrollment.

Creamer said he also anticipates the tuition freeze improving retention rates and this coming year’s enrollment.

“This will have a great impact upon incoming students,” he said.

Alicia Howard, incoming freshman business management major, said she was pleased with the tuition freeze for the next two years even though she had not been impacted by increases in previous years.

“It’s going to help out a lot,” Howard said. “It’s definitely a positive thing.”

Dailey said recent investments in higher education are based upon the core of Strickland’s campaign proposals: economic development and job creation through education.

Some of these higher education investments on the state budget include:

• Doubling the number of students receiving the Ohio College Opportunity Grant in the first year of the budget and tripling the number in the second year.

• A $100 million Choose Ohio First scholarship program to encourage students in STEM fields – science, technology, engineering and math – to study in Ohio.

• A $50 million program to recruit world class scholars and researchers to Ohio universities.

In the context of the last several decades of rising tuition, Dailey said the tuition freeze and other components of the state budget are a “180 degree turn in the right direction.”

Contact principal reporter Christina Stavale at [email protected].