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Tuition remains frozen… for now.

The University granted students at least one more semester of frozen tuition rates this fall, but budget constraints could melt away confidence in keeping the price steady for Spring 2010.

University Trustee John Harbal II said the fate of tuition could be decided as early as Oct. 2 at the University Board of Trustees meeting.

‘If there is a tuition increase, I think students will want to be notified as soon as possible,’ he said. ‘If we were to move toward an increase, I guess we’d be able to make a decision come October.’

Since 2006, tuition has been less than $4,600 a semester for Ohio residents and less than $8,500 a semester for out-of-state students. The University decided to lock in the price for the fall semester after Gov. Ted Strickland announced tuition rates were vulnerable to increase in July. Ohio State University, Miami University, Ohio University and the University of Cincinnati also put a hold on tuition for the fall semester.

State Representative Randy Gardner (R-Bowling Green) said higher education in general has taken a big hit economically, especially at the state level.

‘State support for higher education declined in two different ways: overall support for institutions and financial aid,’ he said. ‘In these tough economic times, it’s even more important to make a higher education more affordable.’

The University has already cut costs by reevaluating expenses. Vacant positions were eliminated, contracts shifted from 12 months to nine or 10 and different departments were asked to bring expenses in line with anticipated resources, University President Carol Cartwright said in an e-mail.

Less than two weeks ago the University also announced around 500 full-time 12-month staff would be forced to take unpaid furloughs this fiscal year. Staff, faculty administrators and library faculty earning $50,000 or more in base salary as of Aug. 24 will take three, five or seven days off unpaid, depending on salary level. The measure is supposed to save the University about $800,000.

Cartwright emphasized the University has to cut spending, but isn’t veering from its original mission.

‘We need to cut expenses, but we also need to invest in strategic priorities,’ Cartwright said. ‘For example, in the current budget for the 2009-10 year, we are investing in undergraduate education and in enrollment improvements.’

While Cartwright acknowledges the challenges ahead, she said the University will always depend on its employees and students to stay viable.

‘We are the type of organization that depends on people to deliver our mission,’ she said. ‘Therefore, whenever we look at eliminating positions, we have to ask ourselves if we will negtively impact the delivery of our core mission and we also need to be sensitive to personal circumstances and the impact on individuals in the cases where we change or eliminate filled positions.’

As for the tuition issue, Gardner said Ohio schools are already charging around 150 percent of the national average, and being a state institution right now means receiving less funding from a suffering state budget.

‘It’s a very tough choice for making college affordable and keeping programming up,’ he said. ‘How does the University retain quality when the state can’t retain support? At some point, very important decisions have to be made.’

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