The increasing cost to you

As state funding for Ohio’s colleges decreases, Chris Dalton’s job gets more difficult.

Dalton, senior vice president of finance and administration at the University, helps oversee BGSU’s budget building process.

When he became vice president in 1987, the state of Ohio contributed roughly 57 percent of the cost of education and students were responsible for the remaining 43 percent. Currently, the state share is closer to 30 percent and the student share is roughly 70 percent.

“It can be frustrating,” Dalton said. “There’s no question that student fees have increased significantly in the recent years.”

And Ohio’s college students are, on average, facing 45 percent more fees than co-eds in other states, according to the annual Ohio Board of Regents performance report.

The report revealed the national tuition average for four-year state universities was $5,491 this year -Ohio students pay an average of $7,491.

This semester, BGSU students from Ohio paid $8,560.

Dalton attributes this figure to increases in utility costs, necessity of health benefits for University staff members and the need to make up for the state reductions in funding.

“While of this has been occurring, we have also been looking for ways to reduce costs and improve efficiency,” he said.

Larry Weiss, associate vice president of University relations and governmental affairs, said he’s especially disappointed by the lack of funding and the need to cut programs.

“We’re constantly looking for ways to create new efficiencies,” he said. “It’s a cop out from the state.”

In December 2004, because of funding cuts, the University’s Women’s Center lost its director and secretary.

But Weiss said cuts could get worse – academic departments could be merged or eliminated altogether.

“This could happen because we’re an easy target,” he said, emphasizing students are often less vocal than senior citizens or parents of grade school children.

As a result, since 1996, Ohio’s correctional facilities, K-12 schools and nursing homes have seen funding increases (of roughly 31 percent, 40 percent and 29 percent, respectively), while higher education has seen a 14 percent drop.

Jonathon Byrd, a sophomore criminal justice major, said these numbers disappoint him because they reflect a lack of care for young adults.

“[Ohio leaders] have failed miserably to fund since 2001,” he said. “It’s like they don’t realize that we’re the ones who’ll be taking care of them in 20 years.”

According to Dalton, Ohio has experienced budget problems roughly every 10 years and its colleges are the first to suffer.

“Our budget for 2006-7 will reflect more than $10 million less in support from the state than our budget for 2001-2 – that’s a reduction of nearly 13 percent,” he said, adding lawmakers seem to view support for higher education as optional.

Because of these cuts, Nathan Wiedenhoft, Undergraduate Student Government’s off-campus senator this past year, helped lead two separate campaigns against rising tuition.

The first, the Coalition Against Rising Tuition, was created two years ago to fight the repeal of a 1-cent sales tax increase. After the issue was resolved, Weidenhoft led a letter-writing campaign in hopes of maintaining the current level of funding in Ohio.

He, and this year’s USG president, Aaron Schumaker, endorsed “Think Ohio,” which works to raise awareness of the state’s lack of funding for higher education by distributing informative pamphlets to parents of Ohio high schoolers.

“Education in the state of Ohio is so important and yet the funding for higher education keeps getting cut so I have no doubt it’ll be on USG’s radar next year,” Wiedenhoft said. “I think pretty much everyone in USG signed up for [CART].”

Bernard Little, 2006-7 USG president, who has been a member of CART since it was founded in his first year at BGSU, said the campaign is especially important because of the number of services, including 24-hour computer labs and the free student recreational center, the University offers its students.

“Tuition and fees are covering these services and we don’t want to be cutting these services,” he said. “If students don’t get involved and tell their legislators, then they’ll think they don’t care.”

Little said 2006 is a key year to lobby for this cause because a new governor and new senators will be elected.

“I want to make sure we take a stance on this,” he said, adding members of CART have previously traveled to Columbus to discuss the issue with legislators.

And, according to Weiss, some officials are already responding to students, they just need support.

Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, majority floor leader, and Sen. Joy Padgett, R- Coshocton, chair of the state’s Senate education committee, announced their plan, “Invest in Success” in January. According to a letter sent to Ohio’s university presidents, the senators hope to reward colleges that increase the number of students who graduate in four years. Additional funding, they say in the letter, would serve as an incentive for institutions to increase graduation rates.

Padgett and Gardner, both of members of the Ohio Senate’s Higher Education Funding Study Council, stated in the letter that no campus would receive less money than it currently receives because of the program.

Weiss is optimistic about the potential program, which will be discussed in the Senate next month.

“If we had more senators like these, we wouldn’t have a problem,” he said.

Dalton believes greater support for education could also solve other problems.

“I think the fact that Ohio is a high student fees/low state support of higher education state is one of the main reasons that the Ohio economy is not doing well,” he said.