As the Ohio House yesterday passed its own $51 billion version of the state's budget, Gov. Bob Taft expressed his concerns with it - including the decrease in his proposed tuition cap for public colleges and universities.
Officials at the University of Toledo were issuing similar concerns because a decrease from 9 percent to a 6 percent tuition cap would force them to scramble to find up to $3.8 million to fund financial aid promised to students.
"We've been very active in making our position known down in Columbus, but I don't think there's much hope," said Dan Brennan, chairman of the UT trustees. "I think their decision to do this is ill-advised. You can't reduce funding and concurrently reduce income opportunities."
Governor Taft wants to cap tuition increases at 6 percent plus an additional 3 percent for financial aid for needy students. The House plan would continue the 6 percent cap in current law.
"We're expanding our scholarship moneys and we want to provide an incentive for universities and colleges in the state ... to do the same," Mr. Taft said.
Financial aid offers were made to students for the next academic year after UT's trustees in February approved a fall tuition increase in keeping with the governor's proposed budget.
The increase called for 6 percent to support general tuition and 3 percent for aid to needy students, bringing the cost of an education for in-state students at UT to $7,703 annually.
Last year, tuition at UT rose by 9.9 percent.
At the time, trustees pointed to anticipated state funding cuts for the proposed tuition hike.
Tobin Klinger, a UT spokesman, said leaders will fulfill their financial aid offers to students if the final budget doesn't include the 9 percent cap.
He said there have been no discussions yet as to how the money would be made up.
With offers still out, the university also doesn't know what the outcome will be for loss in tuition dollars. Another potential problem would be to refund students for overpaid tuition.
At this point, Mr. Klinger said students have not yet been billed for fall tuition, although students can elect to pay early.
UT was not alone in moving forward with a tuition increase and, as a result, facing potential funding issues. Youngstown State University and Miami University also have announced tuition hikes of 9 percent.
Similar to UT, Youngstown State leaders said they will commit to funding the financial aid packages that have been offered. Unlike UT, Youngstown State only had a 1 percent tuition increase for financial aid and earmarked the remaining 2 percent for technology.
The potential loss of 2 percent would affect a planned overhaul of computers, Ron Cole, a Youngstown State spokesman, said. But Mr. Cole said the final state budget isn't known, so leaders don't know for sure if they will incur a shortfall.
"I think with so many things like this, it's sort of up in the air right now," Mr. Cole said.
The governor must sign a balanced budget by June 30.
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