OU Trustees Hear Fiscal Cliff Solutions

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Members of the Ohio University Board of Trustees are meeting in full regular session Friday morning after having spent a considerable portion of Thursday’s committee meetings addressing the university’s own fiscal cliff.

The trustees discussed the university's budget and tuition.

Ohio University officials are considering making some drastic changes to the tuition model and other revenue sources supporting the institution.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding and Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit presented the board with an outline of the problems facing Ohio University in the next year and several years to come.

The pair presented a breakdown of the revenue sources for the university and the lion’s share came from tuition.

Golding calls OU a tuition-driven university, but he says that model is not sustainable.

“In essence, the challenge is we need multiple stable revenue streams, in order to protect our academic quality and cover the cost of programs,” said Golding.

Based on a study of national trends, it is projected the amount of state funding for higher education in Ohio will be zero percent by the year 2039.

Ohio University officials are trying now to find ways to make the institution sustainable without state support, and some of those ways include making modifications to the tuition model.

“The first one we're going to look at is differential tuition. And differential tuition is tuition that is based on one's major, program, college or sometimes on class standing,” said Benoit.

The benefits, according to Benoit, are that the university can offer new majors that, under the current system, are too costly to support and each college can address program costs.

But this system may encourage students to enroll for the least expensive majors, or would imply a higher value to certain major programs.

The other option is called guaranteed tuition.

“Guaranteed tuition is a tuition rate for undergraduate students for four years that remains the same. And this is done in a variety of different ways by several institutions. And for some institutions, what's guaranteed is the tuition, in some institutions it is the tuition and fees, or the tuition and fees and room and board and other non-tuition expenses. There are a variety of ways of determining what's included and what's not included in the guarantee,” said Benoit.

This option presents several benefits, says Benoit.

“One of the most obvious ones is predictability. This is a nice way to get students to graduate within a four year period as well because if you don't, there will be an increased cost in that fifth year because you will be in a different cohort,” said Benoit.

But with the guaranteed tuition system, the university would take a risk of setting the guaranteed tuition too high.

Since the university is not just supported by tuition, making changes to the tuition model will solve only part of the problem.

Increasing enrollment in certain areas and expanding the programs with extra space to fill will help offset costs.

For example, inviting more graduate students to study at OU would be beneficial because it would not increase university housing costs, as most graduate students live off campus.

The Board of Trustees, Student Senate and other governing bodies are working toward a plan that would maximize campus space.