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Student Senate Presenting Tuition Survey Results to OU Admins

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The results of Ohio University Student Senate’s 2012 Tuition survey have been calculated, and President Zach George is preparing to present its findings to university administrators to make a case against tuition increases.

Over two thousand responses were recorded in the survey that ran from Oct. 22 to Dec. 14 in Fall Semester.

“To say that you’ve got a sample size of ten percent of the university, that’s pretty incredible, especially when you consider those are all students … it’s clearly something that people are pretty receptive to,” George said of the survey’s success.

By the end of the week, the findings will be bound and distributed to various administrators including OU President Roderick McDavis as well as the Board of Trustees.

Student Trustees Allison Arnold and Amanda Roden have also received copies of the survey results to review.

“The whole idea is quantifying that, showing the Board that students are hurting especially when it comes to increasing tuition, which is generally an alternative when state share of instruction goes down and additional funding is needed,” said George.

The survey results show a plurality, 28.8 percent, of students expecting over $32,000 in debt and the majority, 66.3 percent, of students using student loans to fund their educations.

Perhaps most telling is 27.4 percent of respondents stating they are “Quite a bit” worried about paying back their loans and 26 percent stating they are “extremely” worried about doing so.

“We’ve tried to be very proactive this year. I think with a lot of senates, you hear time and time again, they’re reactive in the sense that the budget comes around spring and they’re [saying], ‘We need to do something about this!’ but by that time it’s largely too late,” said George of Senate’s efforts to prepare their case prior to the tough decisions that will be made this spring regarding the budget for fiscal year 2014.

Last semester, Student Senate also organized a letter-writing campaign, producing over 200 letters to be sent to Gov. John Kasich’s office and various legislators in the capital regarding state education funding and how cuts have impacted students directly.

As far as a response from the Board, George said, “I’m looking forward to some sort of formal acknowledgement, simply saying that they’ve taken a look at it … But more importantly, for them to address the issue when the budget starts to be formed, and I think a lot of students expect the same.”

Last year, the Board of Trustees voted to increase full-time student tuition at OU by 3.5 percent, the legal limit for increase in a single year. This movement, met with sizable backlash from students, sparked efforts to open a stronger dialogue between student representatives and university administration.

“They’re good people and they’re people who are very well acquainted with business, and they’re well acquainted with the finances of the university and the country as a whole, concerning higher education,” said George. “I believe they want to make the right decision … I don’t think they want to raise tuition. I think the survey will give them a good excuse not to raise it by another 3.5 percent.”

Also with a small part to play in this story are the recent Student Senate resolutions formally supporting bills being discussed at the state level regarding giving student representatives voting rights in boards of trustees across the state. That legislation has passed Ohio’s House of Representatives but has not yet passed the Ohio Senate.

“I think that the Board and higher education as a whole is realizing that raising tuition is unsustainable,” said George.

He cited examples of the Board being proactive with regard to the changing higher education funding ecosystem, recalling presentations Provost Pam Benoit gave to Student Senate last semester proposing general ideas like Guaranteed and Differential Tuition. George believes that these measures show that the university is ahead of the curve when it comes to adapting to changing financial times.

George appeared proud of the work saying, “This is something unique. It’s not been done in years past. It’s powerful to quantify.”

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