The University of Toledo’s decision to freeze undergraduate tuition and fees for the 2013-2014 academic year is a step in the right direction for retaining students and making higher education more affordable. It’s also a sign that four-year colleges and universities understand that they are becoming increasingly inaccessible, even to middle- and working-class students. Bowling Green State University should do likewise.
State lawmakers recently capped annual tuition-and-fee increases at 3.5 percent, but college costs were akin to a runaway train before that. Tuition and fees at Ohio universities increased 25 percent over the past decade when adjusted for inflation. Most of that occurred before 2008.
Not long ago, the state’s four-year schools cost nearly 50 percent more than the national average.
An encouraging sign was UT’s willingness to provide housing discounts. Full-time freshmen who live on campus this year can be eligible for a 25 percent housing discount next year if they agree to live a second year on campus, continue to carry a full load of classes, and can keep up at least a 2.5 grade-point average. Free housing also is offered for the spring 2013 semester to new transfers.
Nearly one of three UT freshmen drop out before their sophomore year — and not all for financial reasons. Some are better suited for getting their skills honed at a community college before taking on the academic rigors and greater costs of a four-year college. UT needs to work harder to identify applicants who could benefit from the preparation that community colleges provide, or do much more to help UT students who are at risk of failing.
Colleges will have to continue efforts to keep tuition affordable. Several Ohio cities rank among the nation’s worst for brain drain, which doesn’t bode well for regional efforts to attract higher-paying jobs.
A Brookings Institution report this year ranked Toledo a pathetic 86th among the nation’s 100 largest metro areas for college-educated residents.
Fewer than half of UT’s full-time students graduate in six years. Holding the line on expenses isn’t the only answer, but it’s a start.