Despite cost-saving initiatives intended to keep tuition down, students returning to the University of Cincinnati in the Fall semester are going to pay more for their education.
The UC Board of Trustees unanimously approved an across-the-board, 2 percent increase in tuition rates Tuesday. The increase will take effect at the beginning of the Fall semester.
Unlike past years, the increase is the same for undergraduate and graduate students, as well as each of UC’s campuses, said Bob Ambach, vice president of administration and finance.
Budget officials met with students, faculty, administrators and other stakeholders to discuss the increase before proposing it to the board.
“When you’re trying to run a university this size or any size there are additional costs and there are improvements and things that need to be done mostly for the students,” said James Plummer, vice president of finance. “There’s always concerns by almost everyone about additional costs and students are already leaving universities across the country with more debt than we would like to see them have to have.”
With the increase, tuition for an undergraduate, in-state student would increase to $11,000 per year — up from the $10,784 for the 2013-14 academic year. The university froze tuition for undergraduates in the 2013-14 academic year.
The increase will be used to pay for research, public safety, provisions in the “Creating Our Third Century” initiative and $1.2 million in additional scholarships, Plummer said. The university collected $490 million in tuition during the 2013-14 budget year.
While Plummer said nearly all tuition dollars are reinvested in students in one way or another, some students are calling the increases detrimental.
“It is really going to put a strain on us,” said Steven Yee, a fourth-year communication student. “Graduating students are already in tens of thousands of dollars in debt and most of us already work. I feel like this increase in tuition is going to force us to work more. It might have a detrimental effect on academic quality because students are going to be working and they can’t dedicate as much time to their schoolwork.”
Others said they understood the university’s financial predicament.
“I think that students are going to struggle, but it’s hard because we understand that the university is struggling financially as well,” said Hannah Kenny, a third-year biomedical engineering student. “I wish that tuition wasn’t going up but I don’t want to blame UC specifically. I think more and more students are having to pay for themselves.”
Ohio has made a concerted effort in the past four years to keep higher education affordable, said Jeff Robinson, communications director for the Ohio Board of Regents. Under provisions in the most recent state budget, Ohio universities cannot increase tuition by more than 2 percent per year — making the increase at UC the largest allowed.
“We’ve seen a lot of universities in Ohio freeze, or in some cases, even lower tuition,” Robinson said. “We’re looking for ways to improve quality while being mindful of the cost.”
Efforts by the state to maintain tuition costs follow years of rapid growth in the price for a higher education.
The current in-state tuition rate for a full-time student at UC’s uptown campus is double what it was during the 2000-01 academic year, when tuition was $5,392.
Ohio is not the only state fighting to maintain the cost of higher education. For the past 30 years, tuition rates across the country have ballooned.
“The sticker price of tuition has increased faster than just about any other good or service in the economy over the past three decades, even outpacing health care,” said Andrew Kelly, director of the Center on Higher Education Reform — a Washington D.C. education think tank. “They’re spending money on things that have little to do with teaching and learning — things like administration and amenities. These things cost a lot of money but are often unrelated to the actual teaching and learning that goes on campus. As a result, tuition prices go up but student learning and the quality of education may be unchanged.”
Colleges across the country also are experiencing cuts in state funding — causing universities to increase tuition to make up for the lost revenue.
However, Ohio Gov. John Kasich has increased higher education funding since he took office, UC’s Plummer said.
“Our [tuition] increases at the University of Cincinnati and in Ohio have been a lot lower on the average than other states,” Plummer said. “The university has done a lot to minimize costs.”
Much like the university though, some students are finding it hard to pay the bills.
“I think students are already struggling so raising the tuition is going to make it a lot harder for them to stay in school,” said Logan Davis, a fourth-year communications student. “I’ve got a couple friends who pay completely out-of-pocket because their FASFA ran out or whatever reason.”
As for when the cost of a college education might start to plateau, it’s hard to tell, Kelly said.
“If the economy improves and state revenues rebound post-recession, it’s possible that tuition will stabilize,” Kelly said. “What’s more likely to affect tuition prices is the presence of competitors who provide education for less money — online providers that cost less than in-person courses and open online courses. If students start to rely on these more heavily, traditional colleges will have to find ways to compete.”