The price still isn’t right

Kent State knows our wallets are hurting.

We just never thought they’d do anything about it.

That’s why last week, when President Lester Lefton sent out an e-mail blast announcing the likelihood of a zero percent tuition increase, most of us didn’t pay much attention.

“Yeah, right,” we grumbled, preparing to fork over more dough.

But for the first time in his one-year status as president of Kent State, Lefton and the Board of Trustees pulled through for us on something huge – next year’s tuition freeze has been finalized and formally announced, and we will not be paying any more next year than we paid last year.

While Trustees Chair Sandra Harbrecht might have been overstating the facts a bit by saying the freeze would “keep college affordable for our students and families,” we certainly have no complaints about the lack of increase. The thing is, “keeping” college affordable isn’t the issue here because college isn’t affordable right now. In fact, it’s so unaffordable that the majority of us have taken out loans on top of loans, drained our parents’ bank accounts dry and picked up extra jobs to keep ourselves afloat – and that’s saying nothing of the debt we’ll face as soon as we’ve removed our caps and gowns.

So perhaps “making college affordable for our students and families” might be a better goal for the university to set.

And in all fairness, it wasn’t the Board of Trustees’ idea to stop scamming us out of our hard-earned cash for the 2007-2008 school year. It was the State of Ohio’s suggestion (and its vow to give Kent State more funding) that set this ball rolling.

Do we care why it happened? Does it matter whose idea it was? In the past, tuition has typically risen 5 to 6 percent per year, which means this tuition freeze gives us an average per-credit-hour savings of anywhere from $19 to $36 (for in-state undergrads and out-of-state graduates, respectively).

It doesn’t sound like much when it’s worded that way, but for the average undergraduate, that’s a savings of about $304 per semester. So if we ignore the fact that room and board costs are still increasing, or that parking costs are also increasing …

OK, in the grand scheme of things, maybe we won’t be saving a whole heck of a lot more than we did last year.

Let’s face it: The higher education system in this country – and especially in this state – is so flawed that a one-year tuition freeze at Kent State is certainly not going to change the big picture or the big problems.

But it’s certainly a start.

President Lefton, we thank you – yes, we finally thank you – for doing something that has our best interests at heart.

And if you can make it happen again next year as you anticipated in your e-mail, then we may be ready to drop the cynicism.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Summer Kent Stater editorial board.