Home Education Breakdown: What you need to know about the Ohio Guarantee Plan

Breakdown: What you need to know about the Ohio Guarantee Plan

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Guaranteed tuition: love it or hate it, it’s coming to Ohio University next year, and it will come with a hefty 5 percent increase in tuition.

However, it’s been a while since the plan (officially called the Ohio Guarantee Plan) has been talked about in a public setting. The plan unanimously passed the Board of Trustees vote almost a year ago, and discussion on it has been scarce, minus a mention in Student Senate campaigns last April and informational sessions held by the school. So, for those who don’t quite understand the Guarantee Plan, here’s a comprehensive breakdown of what will happen with incoming students next year.

Tuition, General Fee and other fees will stay the same for 12 consecutive semesters.

The plan is designed so the tuition and multiple other fees (General Fee, Technology Fee, etc.) will stay the same during a regular undergraduate student’s time at OU, according to the plan’s website. No questions asked. Housing and meal plans will stay the same the year a student enters the school, but those are determined by which plans are selected. To counter the possible losses, the Board of Trustees will vote on (and probably pass) a 5.1 percent increase in tuition for those incoming students, bringing the cost of tuition for the 2015-16 school year to $11,074.

The Guarantee Plan and the 5 percent tuition increase is for incoming students only.

No, students currently enrolled at OU will not be subjected to either the Guarantee Plan or the 5 percent tuition increase. The current process of setting tuition, housing, meal and fee rates on a yearly basis will continue for as long as current students are enrolled.

There’s a lot of other exceptions to what guaranteed tuition applies.

Including currently-enrolled students, the plan will not be applied to: graduate tuition, e-learning tuition, continuing education tuition and study abroad tuition. The plan is strictly for incoming undergraduate students.

The designated 12 semesters includes summer semesters.

The plan is designated for 12 semesters for a four-year education, including summer semesters. However, this doesn’t mean students are required to enroll for summer semesters, but the extra semesters don’t roll over if the student opts not to enroll in them. The plan is specifically made so most students can graduate in four years, meaning it applies toward the fall, spring and summer semesters for each of the four years.

But, if students who take more than four years to graduate may end up paying more.

Actually, it depends. If a student is enrolled in a program that requires more than four years at OU, they would be granted an extra semester of the same tuition and fee rates to complete their studies. Some students who need more than four years to graduate “due to circumstances beyond their control” have the chance to make a deal with the university to extend their allowed semesters, according to a university-made video.

If neither of those cases apply, though, the student will then have to pay the tuition and fee rates equivalent to those who enrolled the year after them. For example, if a student that enrolled in 2015 doesn’t graduate by the summer semester of 2019, they would have to pay the rate equal to those that enrolled in 2016.

The costs between yearly tuition hikes and the Guarantee Plan are almost exactly the same, given the circumstances.

An incoming student next school year would pay $44,296 in tuition over the four years the plan allows, paying $11,074 each year. Let’s compare this to if the student were under the current yearly model. If tuition increased by 2 percent (the maximum the university is allowed to increase tuition by state law) every year they are enrolled, they will pay $10,747 for tuition their freshman year, $10,962 their sophomore year, $11,181 their junior year and $11,405 their senior year. This adds up to $44,295 over eight semesters, just one dollar shy of what the Guarantee Plan has the student pay. The 5.1 percent increase was designed to do exactly that.

“The 5.1 percent [increase] is 2 percent compounded over four years, which means that students covered under the OHIO Guarantee will pay approximately the same amount that they would have otherwise paid under the traditional incremental increases,” Stephen Golding, Vice President for Finance and Administration, told The Athens News.

This also means that the 5 percent tuition increase should happen only once to kickstart the plan. In order for tuition to stay equivalent to the 2 percent compounded over four years, the maximum tuition increase after this year would have to stay at 2 percent.

However, this is only if tuition increases by the state maximum each and every year, and ever since that maximum has been 2 percent (since 2013), the school has never done that. The Board of Trustees raised tuition by 1.6 percent in 2013 and by 1.5 percent in 2014. So using the previous example, if tuition were to raise yearly by last year’s 1.5 percent tuition increase, an incoming student under the yearly model would pay $10,694 their freshman year, $10,854 their sophomore year, $11,017 their junior year and $11,182 their senior year. This brings the total of eight semesters at OU to $43,747, $549 less than what they would pay under the Guarantee Plan.

Students will receive more financial aid as a result.

“Because the cost of attending OHIO will remain steady, the same percentage of those costs will be met by any renewable scholarship for each fall and spring semester of a student’s four years at OHIO, assuming that renewable scholarship criteria are maintained,” the FAQ page says. “By contrast, in a model of increasing annual costs, a smaller percentage of a student’s educational costs would be met each year.”

Basically, because costs are constant, financial aid packages will be created based on what incoming students will pay for four years at OU. This is compared to financial aid packages being created during a student’s freshman year, where the cost of tuition will be at its lowest.

Despite the university’s confidence, there are many reasons why some people hate the plan.

Doubt towards the Guarantee Plan has existed for a while now. The most common reason for opposing the plan and its subsequent 5 percent tuition increase comes from disdain toward tuition hikes in general. Most of the time, those opposed call it “guaranteed tuition hikes,” arguing that OU is irresponsible with its money and shouldn’t put its projects on the backs of students already in debt. Controversies like the lawsuits contractors put against the university over the construction of Schoonover Center and the announcement of the athlete-only Sook Academic Center fuel their arguments.

Some say that the plan doesn’t account for the possibility of lowering tuition if the university receives more state or federal aid. They say that if the university receives more aid, those students currently in tuition plans with it won’t see the benefit of that aid.

Some believe that because of increased tuition, the school will become less attractive for prospective students. To quote Matt Farmer, a former member of Ohio University Student Union, in November 2013, “I’d rather not see OU begin to attract the same affluent students that attend Miami [University]; instead, we should be looking to make OU more accessible to a diversity of students by lowering our cost.”

The Ohio Guarantee Plan is complex in its details, but the general ideas — whether this upcoming plan will work and if it’s worth the 5 percent tuition increase — will still be debated for a long time.

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