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Published: Wednesday, 4/6/2005

House proposal would limit Ohio college tuition hikes

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU

COLUMBUS - Tuition hikes at Ohio universities and colleges would be a fraction of the 9 percent a year limit Gov. Bob Taft suggested if a House subcommittee proposal unveiled yesterday becomes part of the state budget.

A separate committee also presented its long-awaited tax-reform recommendations, largely embracing what Mr. Taft has proposed and taking it a step further to make it more business-friendly.

The House Finance Committee is preparing to make changes in Mr. Taft's proposed $51.3 billion, two-year budget. A full House vote is expected next week. A budget must be enacted by July 1.

Rep. Shawn Webster (R., Millville), chairman of the committee's higher education subcommittee, proposed limiting tuition increases in each of the next two years to specific dollar amounts on a sliding scale.

For instance, universities with current annual tuition and fee rates of between $6,600 and $7,700, which includes the University of Toledo, could increase tuition no more than $400 a year. That's well below the 9 percent, or $627, the UT Board of Trustees has adopted for the next school year.

"This would mean a loss of almost $3.9 million [in the first year]," said UT Executive Vice President William Decatur.

The proposal adopts the language of a Senate bill that would limit increases to:

●$350 if the school charges $7,700 or more a year in tuition. Bowling Green State University would be among the affected four-year schools.

●$400 if the school charges between $6,600 and $7,700. This would affect UT and Ohio State, among others.

●$450 if the school charges less than $6,600.

Despite the subcommittee report, House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering) said majority Republicans remain divided on the tuition cap issue.

The governor proposed allowing two and four-year schools to increase tuition as much as 6 percent a year for operating expenses plus 3 percent more exclusively for financial aid programs.

"No matter how you look at it, state support for higher education has declined over the last five years," said Rep. Peter Ujvagi (D., Toledo), a committee member. "The cost of tuition has gone up nearly 45 percent in that same time frame. We are basically pricing people out of the higher education market."

Rep. Sally Kilbane (R., Conway), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, submitted a tax-reform plan that embraces Mr. Taft's proposal to lower personal income taxes 21 percent across the board over five years. The plan would gradually replace the corporate franchise tax and part of the tangible personal property tax on machinery, equipment, and inventory with a new tax on business gross sales.

The committee, however, proposed eliminating the final component of the tangible personal property tax still left under Mr. Taft's plan, the portion on business furniture and fixtures.

Ms. Kilbane said her committee is still working on how it would replace the revenue lost from Mr. Taft's plan by eliminating the last of the tax.

Contact Jim Provance at:

jprovance@theblade.com

or 614-221-0496.



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