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Published: Thursday, 4/7/2005

UT students push tuition reform

UT President Dan Johnson, left, and students have united to control rising college tuition. UT President Dan Johnson, left, and students have united to control rising college tuition.

With an older sister in medical school and his own plans to attend law school, University of Toledo freshman Steven Barker and his family are feeling the pain of college costs.

"We're strapped," said the 18-year-old who's already incurred his own student-loan debt.

So he gladly gave his support yesterday to the official kickoff of a tuition reform effort that originated at UT and is now ready to pick up speed statewide.

University government leaders - Mr. Barker himself is a freshman class representative - earlier this year pledged their support to tuition reform, namely UT President Dan Johnson's proposal to earmark a half-cent sales tax for college tuition costs.

Yesterday, Mr. Barker and other students reiterated their intent by discussing plans for a newly organized task force to visit each of the state's 13 public universities. They also have a Web site, www.PowerOfAPenny.com, which contains a copy of a petition that eventually will be sent to Ohio legislators.

Guy Beeman, student government president, added that he's organizing a student rally at the Statehouse in Columbus, tentatively for April 27. His goal is to have 1,000 or more students there.

"We need to unite around the issue," he said.

Holding a blue banner on the steps of University Hall yesterday morning, about two dozen people, most of whom are students, turned out to show their support for the tuition reform effort. Their written message was "Cut Tuition Now," with a penny shaped inside the O.

Standing in front of them, Mr. Johnson said "we're pleased today to have so many students and friends stepping up on the issue of tuition reform."

He noted that many students can't attend four-year institutions simply because of the cost, and he added that Ohio is lagging behind the national average in its number of bachelor's degrees that have been awarded.

"We have the capability of doing this," Mr. Johnson said of making a statewide change. "It's a matter of priorities."

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