Costs of attending a state college or university will continue to rise this fall for many students despite a two-year undergraduate tuition freeze celebrated by lawmakers and university officials.
The freeze temporarily halts what had been an average 9 percent annual tuition increase over the past decade that left Ohio’s public universities nearly 50 percent more expensive than the national average. The Legislature is pumping an additional $254 million into higher education over two years to support the freeze.
But many students who choose to live on campus or participate in a campus meal plan will again see significant increases this fall in their total college expenses. Some universities also have increased tuition for out-of-state and graduate students.
The increases in room and board schools are planning for the fall are similar to recent raises in tuition, with many hovering around 5 percent or more.
The costs of campus living depend on market conditions in the area, said Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. University officials said the room and board increases are going toward building and renovating residential and dining facilities.
At Ohio State University, a student living on campus last school year paid 6 percent more in tuition and 0.3 percent more in room and board. This fall, tuition for undergraduates at the nation’s largest campus will remain at $8,667 a year. But room and board is rising 4.7 percent to $7,236. That’s an increase of $345. Had tuition alone gone up by 6 percent again, students would have seen an increase of about $520.
University spokeswoman Shelly Hoffman said the room and board fees go back into residential and dining facilities and are never driven by how much the school collects in tuition. Room and board went up 3.3 percent in the fall of 2005 and 5.7 percent in 2004 in unison with tuition increases. Roughly 10,000 Ohio State students live in residential facilities.
When lawmakers alleviated tuition concerns this year, they left untouched a hefty portion of the college bill.
“The focus throughout the budget process has been on counteracting the explosion of tuition costs at Ohio colleges and universities,” said Keith Dailey, spokesman for Gov. Ted Strickland. “There are many things to continue working on, but overall the governor feels that the two-year tuition freeze … is a success.”
At Ohio University in Athens, room and board is increasing 6 percent to $8,426, or $485 from last year. Last year, room and board increased by 4 percent. Tuition this fall will remain $8,907.
Room and board at Kent State University is going up 4.7 percent to $7,200, or $320, compared with a 3.6 percent increase last fall. Tuition will remain $8,430.
Miami University is also increasing room and board, by 5.6 percent, but that is the lowest increase in three years. Room and board will cost $8,600. The highest tuition rate an in-state student will pay is $11,443. Miami raised out-of-state and graduate student tuition 6 percent for the fall.
Room and board rates commonly fluctuate and students can choose different plans, but the rates, like tuition, have steadily increased in recent years well above inflation levels measured at 2.7 percent in May.
“Certainly you expect some increase with room and board with inflation but didn’t expect to see huge increases,” said Senate President Bill Harris, an Ashland Republican.
Harris said the tuition freeze reflects the Legislature’s commitment to lowering the costs of college, but he acknowledged that families look at tuition and other costs as a total package.
Pat Callan, president of the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education, said lawmakers and higher education thinkers across the country are just beginning to notice the impact of other costs such as room and board. Callan also said he is puzzled why cost of living increases at many campuses are well above inflation.
“We’ve been so focused on the part we thought we had control over, which is tuition, that we haven’t tracked these other non-tuition costs that are just as related to higher education.”
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