Home Opinion Opinion: Guaranteed tuition not cost-effective for students

Opinion: Guaranteed tuition not cost-effective for students

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The proof is in the pudding: a guaranteed tuition model has the potential to cost more for students than our current tuition model.

We already know that the guaranteed tuition model allows the Board of Trustees to increase tuition by a one-time increase of up to 5.88 percent, which would essentially account for four years of tuition increases for the first cohort of students under guaranteed tuition (a cohort is defined as a group of students who enroll in the same year with the intent to graduate in four years).

This is problematic because if the state were to freeze tuition during those four years, students at OU would be left out in the cold because the guaranteed tuition hike assumes tuition will be going up every year.

Additionally, guaranteed tuition has the potential to produce higher tuition costs relative to what they would be under our current tuition model.

The reason for this lies in Ohio House Bill 59, which allows the university to increase tuition for each cohort by the tuition cap set by the state plus the average rate of inflation over the previous five years. This is measured by the Consumer Price Index, which is usually somewhere between two and three percent. For example, if the state tuition cap is two percent, as it is for this upcoming year, and CPI is two percent, then the Board of Trustees could raise tuition as high as four percent for each incoming cohort.

Initially, this would produce a four-year total cost of tuition equal to what students experience under the current model, but over time it gives the university the capacity to rapidly escalate the cost of tuition.

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit has said the above scenario is unlikely, because the university has to remain competitive in the market to attract students. While partially true, there are multiple problems with this response.

First, the Board of Trustees has a long and illustrious tradition of raising tuition at or near the maximum state cap since 2004, so there is little reason to believe the Board wouldn’t do so with a higher cap.

Second, OU can still remain competitive in the market and simultaneously increase tuition by a greater amount because OU is currently less expensive than both Miami University and the University of Cincinnati. I’d rather not see OU begin to attract the same affluent students that attend Miami; instead, we should be looking to make OU more accessible to a diversity of students by lowering our cost.

Finally, if more universities begin to adopt the guaranteed tuition model, the market as a whole can raise tuition together by a greater amount. Ohio institutions already rank high compared to other states, so we should be wary about giving universities the ability to rise in those rankings.

Ohio University is supposed to be a public institution and  it should be both affordable to all students who apply. At best, guaranteed-tuition merely creates the illusion of affordability;  at worst, it makes OU less accessible to future generations of students.

So why is the university pursuing guaranteed tuition in the first place? Even if we assume the university will not take this opportunity to increase their revenues, which seems unlikely, administrators are spending an awful lot of time building a program that does not address student affordability.

This article was written by Matt Farmer. The Ohio University Student Union meets Thursdays at 8pm in Baker 237.

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