Ohio State Freezes Tuition for First Time in Decades

by | May 8, 2015 AT 10:40 AM

By Bill Bush

For the first time in at least four decades, Ohio State University plans to freeze all of its costs -- tuition, fees, room and board -- for in-state, undergraduate students, who represent most of the university's enrollment.

"With this step, we can offer some financial relief for the nearly 80 percent of our students who are from Ohio," Ohio State President Michael V. Drake said in a statement released yesterday. " Ohio State is proud to be a national leader on college affordability, but we can do even more."

Tuition and mandatory fees for in-state undergraduates have been frozen at $10,037 a year since the 2012-13 school year, and will remain at that level next school year. That means a student who entered the university three years ago could graduate in spring 2016 without ever having experienced a tuition increase.

If that student lives on campus, the room and food costs would be frozen at $11,666 a year for the final two years -- a repeat like that hasn't occurred for at least 40 years, according to the university.

Though the chance to freeze all costs might not be possible for other state universities, "Ohio State is in a position to do so this year while continuing to invest in the quality of our academic mission," Drake said.

The university is particularly focused on affordability for Ohio residents, the school said in the news release.

Ohio residents pay less at Ohio State than out-of-state students because state taxpayers contribute more than $333 million a year to help subsidize the university.

But the freeze on tuition and fees given to in-state students won't be delivered to everyone. Tuition costs for out-of-state OSU undergraduate students will rise by 3.1 percent for those on the main Columbus campus, to $27,362 a year.

Even with that change, Ohio State will remain among the least-expensive schools in the Big Ten, where this year it was the third least-expensive of the 14 universities.

Out-of-state students attending regional OSU campuses will be charged 3.5 percent more in the fall.

And international students who currently are enrolled at Ohio State will pay 3 percent more in tuition next school year, to $28,362 a year. The biggest increase, however, will be incurred by newly enrolled international students, who will be charged a 6.4 percent increase over the current rate, or $29,302 in annual tuition.

All of these proposals still must be approved by the university's Board of Trustees in June.

The cost changes for graduate programs, which vary, will be announced at that time.

The university also will redirect up to $17 million from central-office administrative costs, such as human resources and legal, into student scholarships and financial support to academic programs next school year.

Ohio State's decision to cap fees comes as state leaders have been pressing public universities to contain student costs. Gov. John Kasich has proposed capping tuition increases at 2 percent over two years, and the House proposes that a flat $200 increase be allowed. The Ohio Senate has yet to weigh in.

Until last year, there had been only one year -- 2009 -- when resident undergraduate tuition and mandatory fees hadn't increased at Ohio State, going back at least to 1989, according to information contained in the university's budget. Between 1989 and 2007, tuition and fees increased each year at rates that ranged from 5 percent to 18.9 percent. During that period, tuition more than quadrupled, from $2,040 to $8,667.

Starting in 2008, that trend reversed in a big way. Including next year's freeze, the average annual increase since 2008 has been 1.7 percent, and four years have seen no increases. The largest increase during that span was an 8 percent increase in 2011.

(c)2015 The Columbus Dispatch (Columbus, Ohio)