YOUNGSTOWN STATE Trustees OK 9% tuition increase

This is the university's eighth tuition increase in eight years.
YOUNGSTOWN -- Youngstown State University's trustee board saw the handwriting on the wall and could not wait any longer when it came to increasing tuition.
The trustees, in response to a warning issued by Gov. Bob Taft in November that called for all public colleges and universities to freeze tuition until the state Legislature completed this year's budget, postponed a tuition increase at its December meeting.
On Friday, however, the board, anticipating state budget cuts to higher education, opted to take action and voted to adopt a 9-percent increase in tuition for the 2005-06 academic year.
The overall cost to students will increase this fall by 10.6 percent because of a previously approved 1.6 percent fee increase that represents operating funds for the Andrews Student Recreation and Wellness Center now under construction.
This amounts to an increase of $313 per semester for full-time undergraduate students living in Ohio. Tuition and fees for the 2005-06 school year will total $6,510.
All but two board members voted for the increase. Vice chairman Dr. Hai-Shiuh Wang voted against the increase, and Dr. Chander Kohli abstained.
This is the eighth tuition increase at YSU in eight years. Even with the increase, YSU currently has near the lowest tuition of comparable state universities in Ohio.
"We have for the past three years set tuition at the December board meeting," said YSU President Dr. David Sweet. "We've done that for a number of reasons. First of all to give advance notice to students and families and those responsible for the financial aspects so that they may plan ahead, and secondly so that we can do the packaging for financial aid early in the year and be more competitive.
"At the December meeting, we were right on the same page as the governor," Sweet added. "The governor asked us to restrain in terms of our tuition increase, and we have restrained. The last three years we have had the lowest of all other universities in percent increase, dollar increase and absolute tuition. So we have supported what the governor's intention was."
According to YSU's budget report, from 2000 to 2005 the state's share of instruction has dropped from $47 million to slightly more than $40 million, and the state appropriations for the general operating budget have decreased from nearly 50 percent in fiscal year 2001 to 35 percent in 2005.
And although John Habat, YSU vice president for administration, admits he does not have a crystal ball, he does not think that trend of decreasing state support is going to change.
"It sounds like a broken record, but over the past five years we've seen a gradual decline in state support," Habat told the trustee board's Finance and Facilities Committee. "We expect that decline to continue in the next fiscal year. Word around Columbus is that a best-case scenario is flat funding, and it is not unlikely that there is going to be some level of cuts. So for planning purposes, we have assumed a $2.2 million cut."
But many, including state Sen. Robert Hagan of Youngstown, D-33rd, are concerned that the burden of higher tuition is being put on those that can least afford it. He said it is the state that should be held accountable for the cost of higher education.
Hagan and state Sen. Marc Dann of Liberty, D-32nd, sent a letter Friday to Sweet and Larry Esterly, trustee board chairman, voicing their disappointment at the possibility of a tuition increase.
"We want to emphasize the importance of education and we at least wanted to have some discussion about it before tuition was raised," said Hagan, after the vote had been cast at Tod Hall. "He's [Taft] talking about sending a letter telling them to hold the line, they [YSU officials] ignored him and they did it on the backs of the people here instead of doing it on the state level.
"Nobody here wants to raise it, but they [trustees] were put in a position where they felt they had no choice. I was hoping that we could convince them to hold off. It was a matter of timing. We wanted to make the Legislature take another look at it."

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