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Board of Trustees Discuss Tuition Hike, Student Trustee Voting Rights

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The Ohio University board of trustees met Thursday and Friday to discuss important aspects of the university, including total restructuring of how tuition is collected.

Stephen Golding, vice president of finance and administration, discussed a new tuition model, now in its preliminary stages of development, which would allow the university to charge a student based on the program he or she is enrolled in.

The strategy, called differential tuition, would take into account the different operational costs, instruction fees and demand for the program. Different programs will be accompanied by different costs; however, the guaranteed tuition strategy would ensure the tuition rate students paid their freshmen years will not increase over the course of completing their degree. With this taken into account, tuition for some students may be higher than under the tuition model OU currently has.

The model, if adopted, would not go into effect until the fiscal year 2016.

Golding, who said the traditional tuition model the university uses is not working to efficiently fund the university’s budgetary problems, also said the current model places a large burden on students, who now fund the bulk of the university’s budget.

Because Ohio’s state share of instruction has been decreasing each year, multiple tuition increases have been needed to fill the gap left by the state. The board’s decision to raise tuition last spring became a controversial issue that students have persistently protested against.

Thirty members of the OU Student Union attended the meeting to advocate for a tuition freeze by the board. The group, which has been actively protesting the tuition hike, sat quietly during the meeting while holding up handmade signs. The board did not give the student union the chance to speak out.

“They told us they felt our pain – which is exactly what they told us immediately before voting unanimously to raise tuition by the maximum amount allowed by law when we demonstrated in April,” said protester Ellie Hamrick.

“The board of trustees consistently hands the burden over to students,” said Hamrick of the tuition raise. “Instead of chopping from the top, they raise tuition by the maximum legal limit time after time.”

“Last April, a full ten percent of the tuition hike was handed over to the ten highest-paid administrators in the form of raises and bonuses,” she said.

Hamrick said she does not feel that student union’s concerns were heard and addressed by the board, saying they gave the group “lip service.”

“But I can guarantee you that in April, each of these people will vote to raise our tuition again – unless, of course, we can put up enough of a fight,” she said, elaborating that the fight would need more student involvement.

Senior student trustee Allison Arnold said she appreciated the students that came to the meeting to voice their opinions; “However, I cannot share and advocate for opinions that I have not heard prior to a meeting,” Arnold said. Arnold stressed the importance of students attending her office hours to voice their concerns about issues passionate to them.

Regarding student trustee voting rights, the board of trustees has yet to take a definitive stance. Student trustee voting rights are being considered by the Ohio Senate after passing the Ohio House of Representatives. The most recent version of the bill makes it permissive for boards of trustees at public institutions to determine whether its student trustees will have voting rights.

The Executive Committee considered the issue after a resolution passed by student senate encouraged the passage and support of the bill.

“Our student trustees have been very proactive in their conversations with student senate and others on the issue,” said Chair Gene Harris. Harris commented that the board has always had a good relationship with its student trustees.

“We listen to their input, we take their input as seriously as we do every voting trustee and every non-voting trustee or anyone who has a very, very clear voice,” said Harris. “I’d just like to say we believe that Ohio University provides a very inclusive and open forum for all trustees who sit on this board.”

Zach George, student senate president and primary sponsor of the resolution, said the board’s lack of a stance is “understandable given the fact that the resolution was only passed the week prior and we’re still waiting on word from the State regarding the bill.”

“In time, I believe they will [take a stance],” he said.

The Executive Committee report also discussed the presidential goals and reported that the goals remain unchanged, because “they reflect the fifth year of a five-year goal plan,” said Harris.

Other topics discussed include the Promise Lives campaign, the state mandate to develop three-year degree programs and the passage of numerous resolutions. Among the resolutions: the merging of the Dance, Film and Theater schools into a single School of Dance, Film and Theater; the discontinuing of the Ohio Center for Professional Accountancy and one-year extensions to the Appalachian Rural Health Institute and the George Hill Center for Counseling and Research; and development of construction documents and contracts for the rehabilitations of the Galbreath Chapel and Bush Hall, as well as renovations to Bromley Hall and the Central Foods Facility.

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