Cheaper education not ideal

Ryan Loew

Tuition caps can have negative effects

In his State of the State address last week, Gov. Bob Taft proposed initiatives to make college more affordable, but exactly how much Kent State students will benefit remains to be seen.

Taft proposed a 6 percent tuition cap for all state universities, limiting how much a public university can raise its tuition and guaranteeing students their education will not go beyond a certain sticker price.

But the tuition cap may have some negative results for students.

“It will likely lead to some cost reductions within the institution,” said David Creamer, vice president for administration. “It’s probably going to reduce the amount of revenue that is generated next year, which will lead to the need for some cost reductions.”

The reductions may change some university programs, but Creamer doubts any academic programs would be eliminated, though the university won’t know what costs will be reduced until late May or early June.

“We understand the general outlines of the challenge but haven’t made specific decisions,” President Carol Cartwright said. “Everything’s on the table. We’re going to be making some very difficult choices among important priorities. But that’s an economic reality to be faced.”

The next stop for Taft’s proposals is the Ohio House of Representatives. Cartwright said she is not sure how the House will vote on his college proposals but expects the House’s vote to not fare well for higher education in general.

“Many people believe that what the governor proposed is a best-case scenario,” she said.

The tuition caps force the university to balance service quality with the cost of attending the university, Creamer said.

The caps can help students, he said, giving them more certainty about how much their education will cost. Lacking financial support from the state, universities are passing the burden on to students through higher tuition. Taft’s tuition caps block that.

“He’s trying to minimize how much can be passed on,” Creamer said. “He’s recognizing that several institutions are receiving less money from the state but limiting how much of that they’ll be passing on to the student.”

Taft introduced the Ohio Student Lending Initiative last week, a reduced-rate loan program partnering Ohio with the KnowledgeWorks Foundation, Ohio’s designated non-profit student lender. The lending initiative proposes offering $100 million in loans to students and their families beginning this fall.

Mark Evans, the director of Student Financial Aid, said although he is waiting for more details of the loan proposal to surface, he is optimistic of its possibilities.

“It’s a positive sign that the state of Ohio is beginning to be creative and provide some additional cost benefits to the student,” Evans said. “Any time we can lower the interest rate for students it is a move in the right direction.”

The governor also proposed expanding the state’s needs-based college grant program by aligning it with federal Pell Grant standards, allowing eligibility for an additional 11,000 students.

The Ohio College Opportunity Grant expands access to financial aid for low and middle income families by increasing the family income eligibility from $39,000 to $75,000.

Evans said the grant will be phased in over four years beginning in 2007, replacing the current Ohio Instructional Grant and Part-Time Instruction Grant.

Contact administration reporter Ryan Loew at [email protected].