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Published: Monday, 7/14/2003

Trustees plan increase of 9.9 percent

BY RYAN E. SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

The University of Toledo is expected to become the last public university in the state to set tuition and fees for the fall when its board of trustees today considers a proposed 9.9 percent increase during a special meeting.

The plan would raise the cost of attending the college by the maximum allowed in the state budget. For students, it would mean paying $579 more a year in tuition and general fees, up to $6,415 from $5,836.

Delayed by a state budget that wasn't finalized until last month, the proposal is necessary in large part because state lawmakers are not adequately supporting higher education, said William Decatur, vice president for finance and administration.

“The state's not funding it. That means the students need to,” he said.

Legislators this year capped tuition increases at public universities at 6 percent, but allowed an additional 3.9 percent increase if that money is used for financial aid for low-income students or technology improvements.

“Both are critically important and, we felt, worthy of the increase,” Mr. Decatur said.

The money generated for financial aid will be put into a quasi-endowment that should provide some secure, long-term funding for grants based on need and to help UT in important financial ratios, he said.

Several other Ohio universities have approved 9.9 percent increases for the fall, including Bowling Green State University, the University of Cincinnati, and the University of Akron.

At BGSU, in-state undergraduates who enrolled before the summer of 2002 will be charged $7,144 annually.

Those who enrolled during or after the summer of 2002 will pay $7,408.

With state funding remaining flat and the rising cost of salaries, utilities, and other items, officials needed to make substantial cuts and find ways to increase revenue in order to make the proposed $236 million budget balance.

“There's a lot of tough medicine in this budget,” Mr. Decatur said.

Officials cut $3.5 million in positions, including the elimination of 44, most of which were vacant. UT also has eliminated three sports teams and restructured its executive administration by cutting four high-profile positions.

One propsal to increase revenue was to begin charging all students the general fee - which actually went down a bit because of reduced support needed at the student health center - instead of exempting students taking distance learning courses, for example.

Also, UT no longer will allow students to take more than 12 credit hours for free.

Previously, students were not charged extra if they took between 13 and 16 credit hours. Now, those will cost $97 each.

“We simply cannot afford to give those away any more,” Mr. Decatur said, adding that about 50 percent of students took advantage of the policy.

Guy Beeman, student government president, said the change represents significant and somewhat hidden costs to students who are pinching pennies and taking extra classes to try and graduate on schedule.

“This is going to be a surprise for students. This is something that was not talked about during the registration process,” he said.

Overall, the rising cost of college is going to take its toll, Mr. Beeman continued.

“I believe the burden on the students is going to be unbelievable. Students, frankly, aren't going to be able to afford it,” he said.

The rapid rise in tuition at four-year institutions like UT is one driving force behind enrollment growth at places like Owens Community College. This fall, officials are projecting it will have 10 percent more students than last year.

“Price is important,” said Gary Dettling, vice president for college advancement. “We're beginning to see a wider spread between the cost of two-year schools versus four-year schools. ... Students are going to choose the most affordable choice.”

The college, with campuses in Perrysburg Township and Findlay, raised tuition and fees by 6 percent beginning this summer, but that amounted only to an increase of $5.75 per credit hour.

The annual cost to a full-time student is $2,418.



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