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Published: Wednesday, 6/15/2005

UT trustees expected to scale back tuition hike

BY KIM BATES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Undergraduate students at the University of Toledo each should have an additional $212 in their pocketbooks come fall.

The university's board of trustees are moving forward with plans to roll back a previously announced 9 percent tuition increase, in keeping with the latest direction from legislators in Columbus.

If it's approved at a trustees' meeting next week, tuition for full-time, in-state undergraduate students would jump by 6 percent to $7,491 from the current $7,067.

Previously, the trustees had approved a tuition increase to $7,703 for next year.

C. William Fall, the UT trustee who is chairman of the trustees' finance, administration, and facilities committee which discussed the issue yesterday, said he was discouraged by action in Columbus that now calls for universities and colleges to cap tuition increases at 6 percent or $500, whichever is less.

He described such movements as a setback for the state of higher education in Ohio.

"We frankly have no choice, and we'll find a way to make the budget behave appropriately," Mr. Fall said of the proposed tuition change, which was moved by the finance committee to the upcoming the board agenda.

But Mr. Fall also said he favored making the change now in order to alert students and their parents. Tuition bills will mailed in July and would reflect the corrected amount, officials said.

In his own version of the state budget, Gov. Bob Taft previously called for capping tuition increases for the state's colleges and universities at 9 percent. Three percent of that increase - which has since been nixed by the House and Senate - was to be earmarked for student financial aid.

The governor's announcement earlier this year prompted quick action at several universities, including Toledo, Miami, and Youngstown State, where trustees approved 9 percent tuition hikes. In recent months, other institutions, including Ohio State University, have approved the 6 percent increase.

The state's two-year budget, which is expected to include the final ruling on tuition caps, has not yet been approved.

Similar to UT, officials at institutions that also have 9 percent tuition hikes on the books are either discussing or planning to take action soon to reverse their previous decisions.

Richard Little, a spokesman for Miami University, said the issue will appear on that school's trustees' agenda on Friday. The trustees are expected to direct the university's administrators to make adjustments as more is known about the state budget.

In Miami University's case, its tuition increase could be no more than $500, following the latest information from Columbus.

The matter is not yet on the board agenda at Youngstown State, where trustees meet June 24. But Ron Cole, a spokesman for the school, said the university would make the change if the 6 percent cap is approved.

At UT, there will be a loss of dollars because leaders already committed scholarships to students, believing they'd have an additional 3 percent from every student to fund that aid.

Dawn Rhodes, associate vice president for finance and planning, said the exact dollar amount is still unknown. But she said leaders are planning to honor those flat-dollar scholarship commitments, and are eying a quasi-endowment fund to recoup the needed money.

UT officials already have announced that they plan to eliminate 11 jobs next year - and do away with other unfilled positions - as a way to help reallocate nearly $5 million in anticipation of the upcoming state budget.

Ashley Sheroian, the new vice president of UT's student government, said students will be pleased to learn of the tuition decrease.

"Everyone's going to be for it," she said.

Still, she noted that the tuition decrease doesn't solve ongoing problems for higher education funding in the state. As state support of public institutions decreases, she said students at UT will continue to push for tuition reform.

Last academic year, student leaders backed President Dan Johnson in his own effort for tuition reform, with an example of using a half-cent sales tax to help cover tuition costs.

Contact Kim Bates at:

kimbates@theblade.com

or 419-724-6074.



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