USG opposes Ohio Senate Bill 4

The University Undergraduate Student Government [USG] voted 29 to five Monday night to pass a resolution formally opposing Ohio Senate Bill 4.

Ohio Senate Bill 4 was proposed by Ohio Senate President Keith Faber. It would require Ohio public universities to lower the cost of in-state attendance by five percent by the 2016-17 academic year. This largely means lowering tuition.

Concerns expressed through the resolution largely deal with fears that lowering tuition would result in the University cutting services like the Counseling Center or Student Legal Services.

Internal Affairs Chair Jeff Devereaux said during the meeting that while he agrees with the goal of the bill, the plan outlined in it is flawed.

“We’re not saying we don’t want college to be affordable,” he said. “[But] a mandated tuition decrease is not the way.”

Senator Avery Dowell, who voted in favor of the resolution, said while he agrees with it, it wasn’t developed as much as it could have been.

As a student, he said, he’s in favor of lowering tuition, but as senator he said he tried to be realistic.

USG President Brian Kochheiser said he agrees with what the state legislation is trying to achieve, but “that goal cannot be achieved by harming academic quality.” Much of Kochheiser’s concern comes from the possible lack of state funding to help make up the difference when costs are cut.

This bill comes around the same time as Gov. John Kasich’s commitment to reducing the cost of attendance for Ohio public two and four-year colleges. An executive order issued by Kasich Feb. 10 created the nine-member Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency in Higher Education. The task force will research ways for Ohio universities to lower cost of attendence.

The Columbus Dispatch reported in February that Kasich said if colleges cannot come up with plans for cost cuts, “I think you just start cutting funding and tell them to deal with it.”

Additionally, budget proposals made by Kasich would place a two percent cap on tuition increases for the 2016-17 school year.

According to a 2014 report by Bloomberg Business, since 1978 the average cost of college tuition in the U.S. has increased 1,220 percent, four times faster than the consumer price index.

While he voted in favor of the resolution, Dowell said he’s wary of letting these costs rise.

“If there’s not a tuition cut now, there’s never going to be a tuition cut,” Dowell said.

A statement from the University said the legislation is too young for BGSU to comment directly, but it is “working closely with other state colleges and universities through the Inter-University Council to identify cost saving measures and to share those opportunities with the Governor and legislative leaders.”

USG is drafting a letter signed by other college student governments to the Statehouse to be sent together with the resolution. Kochheiser said the letter will hopefully be sent next week.

Vice President of Capital Planning Steve Krakoff presented to USG plans going forward for the expansion and renovation of several University buildings.

“Going forward … you’re going to see a lot of improvement in what we call the academic core,” Krakoff said.

This includes renovations to South Hall to house the new School of Mass Communication and the demolition of West Hall. Additionally, rooms in the Education Building, Olscamp and the Business Administration Building will be consolidated and updated with current teaching technology.

Devereaux expressed concerns over the possible exclusion of gender-neutral spaces and restrooms. Krakoff said there are no solid plans, but that the University had “come a long way” in that regard.

The BG News will have a more complete overview of the University’s renovation and construction plans later in the week.

USG Chief of Staff Danielle Parker announced in her report that a proposal by USG to the green fund has been approved. The proposal will result in new, larger garbage and recycling receptacles in the Falcon’s Nest in the Union.

“I think this is a really big step for USG,” Parker said.

In his executive report, USG President Brian Kochheiser said the University expects enrollment for fall 2015 to exceed last fall’s numbers.

President Mary Ellen Mazey stated during the Student Recreation ribbon cutting ceremony that fall enrollment for 2015 is already up by six percent compared to fall semester 2014.