In a move that appears to be unique for an Ohio institute of higher learning, the University of Toledo both will freeze undergraduate tuition and fees next school year and is offering free or reduced-cost housing options for some students in coming semesters.
The moves are meant to make attending UT more affordable and increase the university’s retention rate for returning students, university officials said. Scott Scarborough, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said he didn’t expect the university to lose money because of the decisions, but UT will move forward with the plans regardless because families are struggling to afford higher education costs.
“What is the greater concern is that higher education is getting harder and harder to access for a lot of families, especially in this part of the country,” Mr. Scarborough said. “Even if it makes it difficult on us, I think it’s more important to make it easier for families in higher education.”
The tuition and fees freeze applies for all undergraduate students, while the housing initiatives are more specific. The university will offer free on-campus housing for any full-time student who transfers in the spring 2013 semester. The housing is good for that semester only. In the fall, current full-time freshmen who live on eeeeeecampus and return to university housing as sophomores for the 2013-14 academic year will receive a 25 percent discount on housing costs if they have a 2.5 GPA or higher and have earned 24 or more credits.
Mr. Scarborough said there was a strong consensus among UT leaders to freeze tuition, a year after the university increased tuition and fees this year by 3.03 percent. The housing moves are an effort to attract and retain students who are making significant progress toward a degree; the university has struggled to retain students after their freshman year.
The housing offerings will only be available on a first-come, first-served basis, Mr. Scarborough said, though residence hall beds have become more available in recent years, which is partly what makes the housing deals possible. Enrollment at the university dropped 5 percent this fall from the prior year.
The GPA requirement for returning sophomores was likely chosen as an indicator a student has a good chance of completing a degree. At least 30 percent of UT freshmen do not return for the sophomore year.
“Any increase in retention rate is a win-win for the university and the students,” Mr. Scarborough said. “We are looking to implement programs that can move [retention rates] in a positive direction.”
Kim Norris, a spokesman for the Ohio Board of Regents, said she wasn’t immediately aware of any other public colleges or universities in Ohio that have announced tuition freezes for next year or are offering similar housing incentive programs. But she said many schools are looking at ways to improve retention.
“Chancellor [Jim] Petro has continuously said that Ohio as a whole has to do a better job ... helping students complete their degrees and stay engaged,” she said. “So, any tactics that provide values for students and are student focused and helps them complete their degrees is a good start.”
Bowling Green State University hasn't made any decisions about tuition or fees for next year, university spokesman Dave Kielmeyer said. “However, controlling costs and ensuring a BGSU education remains affordable is a top priority for the university,” he said.
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