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Tuition raise: sooner than later

Mike Lyberg is predicting a tuition increase next fall.

“When the University administration says they’re considering a [tuition] raise, expect to see it on your next bursar bill,” said Lyberg, a 48-year-old freshman commuter of North Baltimore.

Following a 3.5 percent tuition increase this spring, Chief Financial Officer Sheri Stoll said it’s highly likely tuition will be raised again to help alleviate the loss of another $8.3 million in state funding for the next fiscal year. And while the University Board of Trustees will probably not vote on an increase until its June meeting, Stoll said she likes to give students a heads up.

“I’m sure students are going to be very, very disappointed,” she said. “It’s not a pleasant message to deliver.”

Lyberg is not happy about a possible increase from the $9,360 he already pays per year as an Ohio resident, but he understands these tough decisions have to be made. Lyberg, who is going back to school full-time to get his bachelor’s degree in athletic training, said he would deal with the higher cost because it’s becoming increasingly more important to have a four-year degree in today’s job market.

“Realistically, I’m here because I have to be. I’ve crushed my 401(k), I’ve borrowed up to … you know what,” he said. “All the jobs I’ve had … you can’t get anymore without a bachelor’s degree. They put your resume over there and interview someone else. It comes down to a box on an application.”

Gov. Ted Strickland lifted Ohio’s two and half year tuition freeze last July, putting a 3.5 percent cap on the amount public and private colleges and universities can raise their tuition for the next two years. And while the University waited until January to dig deeper into students’ pockets, President Carol Cartwright said raising it again for fall is definitely an option to get costs back in line.

The University will have a better idea about an increase toward the end of the semester, she said, but a decrease in state support for higher education does put a heavier burden back on students.

“I think we have to be modeling that,” she said. “We want to give students a good, strong signal. That’s the fair thing to do.”

Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents Eric Fingerhut said it’s important for students and parents to remember Ohio colleges and universities are faring far better than others in the nation. Because of the tuition freeze, Ohio four-year colleges and universities were ranked No. 1 for having the lowest one-year tuition increases in the nation in the annual College Board report “Trends in College Pricing 2008,” averaging a .20 percent increase in tuition costs.

Fingerhut said making education as affordable as possible is always the goal, even if tuition has to increase every once in a while.

“Tuition doesn’t cover the whole cost of an education. We all have to work together to keep expenses down,” he said.

Three keys to raising education and prosperity is graduating more students, keeping more of those graduates in Ohio and attracting degree holders from out of state, according to the University System of Ohio’s 10-year strategic plan. Fingerhut is confident that following the strategic plan will benefit students by making it easier to transfer credits from community colleges and by offering more bachelor’s degrees in more locations.

In the long run, the strategies make getting a higher education more affordable and accessible, even if students have to pay a little higher tuition.

“Our university main campuses like Bowling Green are comprehensive institutions. They have … hundreds of majors, extracurriculars. Those are incredibly important and also incredibly expensive,” he said. “It’s increasingly the case that higher education is critical to success in the job market.”

An ailing economy and fragile state budget do not bode well for the University’s finances, and Stoll said the University does not like having to charge those with less income and greater financial instability more. She said it all comes down to whether the state views higher education as an investment or expenditure. “[Higher education] will serve as your foundation for the rest of your life,” she said.

Senior Justin Rutledge said if he can’t find a job in journalism when he graduates with his bachelor’s degree in May, he’ll probably head to graduate school. A tuition increase doesn’t bother him too much, though.

“It seems like they have no choice,” he said. “They need to spend money to make money. Students are going to be upset tuition is up, but they have to look at it this way … the money has to come from somewhere.”

A lot of graduate students will choose to go back to school if tuition is paid for, said Joshua Atkinson, grad coordinator for the School of Media and Communication Studies. He said the department will accept 50 out of 90 applicants and then only 15 to 20 will show up because most students can’t foot the bill alone.

“Most people only go to grad school when they get funding,” Atkinson said.

And because a lot of students in grad school aren’t paying their own tuition, the increase probably wouldn’t affect them.

Rutledge said students who pay for their own education will probably take any tuition increase news especially hard, but no student should take getting a college degree for granted.

“It’s a luxury, not a right. If you’re good enough to work your way in here, you have to pay for it,” he said. “No matter what, things are going to get more expensive.”

Freshman Courtney Roesner doesn’t like the idea of taking out more loans to accommodate a tuition increase, but she said she’s committed for four years at the University regardless.

“It sucks. We’re already paying so much and my family can hardly afford it right now,” she said. “I don’t think people who do have less should have to pay more. But you can’t really do much about it.”

Getting a college education should be a privilege, not a necessity, Lyberg said. The value of an education has been cheapened because everyone needs a college degree to get jobs they may have 15 years of experience in, he said. But Lyberg said he will continue taking out student loans and living off his wife’s office salary.

“I have no choice. Tuition is the price you pay for the professor’s time; that’s worth something. It’s the way the world works. But that doesn’t mean the president has to raise it. She can keep it down if she wants,” he said jokingly.

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