Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit and Vice President of Finance and Administration Stephen Golding presented a potential model known as guaranteed tuition, a model first discussed in a November 2012 session of Senate. The model, which continues to be studied by the offices of finance for its potential implementation in the future, is still in a very preliminary stage as the administration attempts to investigate its applicability.
A switch to guaranteed tuition, as it is described, would lock first-year students at Ohio University into a tuition rate that they would hold for their entire four-year term. The board of trustees could vote to raise tuition, but this change would then only affect the next cohort, or tier, of incoming students.
“This conversation is predicated on the belief that the business model for higher education in this country is unsustainable in its current form, and that we need to come up with a different way of providing the resources necessary to support higher education in this country,” said Golding.
The result, Golding said, is a system that is much more reliable and sustainable for both the university and its students and their families. He says it allows families to plan their budgets around a known price for their children’s education, as well as providing the university with a predictable revenue stream.
One important point that was stressed during the presentation was interest of the administration to not contribute to current levels of indebtedness among college students. He said it’s an important challenge to make sure they are not exacerbating economic trends that are already hurting students.
The plan, as outlined by Golding, includes tuition increases that are measured against the average rate of inflation over 10 years. The result, he said, is a rate of increase that is actually less steep than the incremental 3.5 percent increase that students have suffered the past several years.
“It is possible to eventually lower the cost of education. There’s a potential that we can be providing an education in 2012 using 2001 dollar buying power,” said Golding.
The complex details of the proposed plan indicate that the administration has put a great deal of thought into how this plan might affect the university and its students.
Golding and Benoit plan on presenting this plan to the board of trustees Friday, Feb. 08, but offered Student Senate a preview, an action that Student Senate President Zach George is pleased about.
“It’s a really great thing that VP Golding and Provost Benoit presented this plan to us before they did to the board. It really shows how they take note of our concerns and that they consider how valuable our input really is,” said George.
These developments come at a time when the state administration is in the midst of an education funding overhaul, affecting both K-12 and higher education institutions.
Recently, OU President Roderick McDavis announced that he was one of many higher education professionals in discussions with Gov. John Kasich about changing the funding basis for higher education from enrollment to completion.
Golding and Benoit see the potential shift to a guaranteed tuition model benefiting this change, as it places financial incentive on on-time completion of college programs.
“We can’t cut our way of the dilemma and we can’t grow our way out the dilemma. You can’t keep cutting higher education and maintain the quality and you can’t keep adding students and not dilute the quality as well,” said Golding of the current state of higher education governance.
There are some holes in the plan, showing its preliminary nature. When asked about what the situation would be for transfer students, students moving from regional campuses, or students who were forced to take breaks from their education for legitimate reasons, the administrators could only communicate that these were issues they were investigating and building metrics for.
“There are a lot of question marks, but there might be a creative solution in this model… It really takes the mystery out of the question ‘What am I going to pay?’ It might be a viable option,” said George.
The administrators were quick to dispel fears students had regarding the flexibility of the plan. “These are not models; not a proposal to the board for changes. Don’t take this away thinking this is exactly what it’ll be,” said Benoit.
In a student Speak Out prior to the presentation, former Sen. Jared Henderson stated, “Ask the tough questions. Don’t be scared into agreeing to something you don’t want to agree to.”
Benoit, stressing the conversational nature of this process, stated in reply, “As Jared said, ask your tough questions. There are many things yet to be talked about; a lot of things yet to be discussed. We’re interested in hearing your thoughts about it.”