College Costs: Proposed state budget would freeze tuition, fees

Under the proposed budget of Ohio Gov. John Kasich, tuition and mandatory fees at Ohio’s public two-and-four-year colleges would remain frozen for two years, a move officials at Washington State Community College say they don’t support without an increase in state aid.

If the budget is approved, that provision would likely mean the college would need to seek out other options for revenue, said WSCC President Bradley Ebersole.

“College affordability is important for making college accessible,” he said. “A freeze on tuition certainly helps college affordability but an increase in state aid is important to ensure the highest quality education and service to students.”

The freeze is part of Kasich’s proposed 860-page budget recommendations. If approved, it would take effect in the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

“The proposed tuition freeze would be a continuation of our current tuition freeze which has been in effect since 2015,” said Amanda Herb, vice president of enrollment and student success. “Washington State Community College is committed to making education accessible to everyone.”

The tuition at Washington State Community College has increased by 35.84 percent from fiscal year 2002- 2003 to fiscal year 2014- 2015. Right now, tuition stands at $4,340 for a full-time in-state student. In summer 2011, tuition per credit hour was $84.25. The next year it increased to $88.50 then in fall 2012, tuition was increased to $133 per credit hour. Since fall 2015, tuition has remained at $139 per credit hour.

“The budgeting process for the 2018 fiscal year is in the beginning stages,” said Jess Raines, treasurer for WSCC. “We were not considering an increase with the proposed budget language indicating that the tuition freeze will continue.”

The state average for community colleges without a tax levy stands at $4,424, meaning WSCC falls just below average. If the proposed budget is approved, WSCC doesn’t anticipate it hurting the college as they will look into other options for revenue.

“Washington State Community College has taken steps to reduce expenses and has budgeted well during recent years regardless of enrollment challenges and tuition restrictions,” said Herb. “The college has seen relatively stable funding in state aide based on Ohio’s 100 percent success-based funding formula due to the strong completion and success rates of our students.”

Washington State has not seen an increase in tuition rates per credit hour since summer 2014 and actually saw a decrease from summer 2015 to fall 2015. The current rate is $139 per credit hour for in-state and $278 per credit hour out-of-state.

“In addition to the tuition freeze, we also have more than $250,000 in scholarships to students,” said Herb. “We have also reduced the number of credit hours required for many of our degrees so students are able to save both time and money.”

According to Ebersole, if the tuition freeze continues the Ohio Association of Community Colleges will request the ability to implement a new student success fee.

“Revenues from these fees would be designated for providing resources for student success initiatives on campus including academic counselors, career counseling services and our Campus Completion Plans,” said Ebersole. “This fee would be tied directly to student support services, not hiring additional administrators or to pay for other non-academic plans.”

The OACC would request an increase of no more than $10 per credit hour, according to Ebersole.

This would help meet the workforce training demands of the local business and industry for WSCC, he said.

“Community colleges in Ohio provide the greatest opportunity for citizens of the state to continue their education and gain the training they need to build a successful career,” said Ebersole.

“The Washington State Community College administration and board of trustees work to be certain that is understood by the governor and legislature, and expects that the appropriate resources will be invested in our mission.”