Brian Barnett of Cranberry Township,Pa.,won the college admissions race at four state universities,now he must decide which he prefers and,more importantly,which he can afford.
Two of his choices are Ohio schools,Kent State University and Ohio University. Both schools will almost certainly demand 8 to 20 percent tuition increases from Ohio and out-of-state students next year.
“What it comes down to is which one is going to be the cheapest,” Barnett,17,said.
A report from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities shows a 7-percent average increase for in-state tuition since the 2000-2001 academic year among 458 institutions surveyed nationwide. The study,released Monday,uses data from the College Board's annual survey of colleges to show students are confronting the largest college cost increase in nearly a decade.
With hopes of majoring in journalism,Barnett believes West Virginia University and Penn State University offer programs comparable to those in Ohio,which leaves scholarship money to make the final decision for him this spring.
Throw in Ohio University's preliminary plans to saddle next year's freshman class with a majority of the school's tuition increase and it makes a difficult decision for Barnett and many would-be freshman.
While OU's tactic is a first for Ohio,it's no longer unique. Ohio State University officials announced their two-tier tuition proposal this month that,if approved,would charge new students with a 34 percent tuition increase and current students with a 9 percent increase. The difference in payment is about $1,200.
In a growing trend,four-year,public colleges and universities in many states are facing austere state funding and passing the burden to students in a variety of ways.
Two-tier tuition systems are relatively uncommon in general,said Damon Manetta,spokesman for the National Association of College and University Business Officers based in Washington,D.C.
“I'd be surprised to see how they're selling that to students,” said Manetta. “Usually,increases are applied evenly across.”
Travis Reindl,project director with the state universities and colleges association,compared this latest round of tuition increases to those of the economic recession during the early ‘90s. He added that despite this fiscal year's brief economic slowdown,which ended as the new year began,colleges often lag behind in their recovery and students are left with weightier bills for several years.
“The bleeding will slow as we work our way through this year,” he explained.
Until then,he expects four-year,public institutions to inflate their price tags again next year to compensate for widespread state tax revenue deficits.
The University of Kansas in Lawrence has proposed a solution to their budget problems similar to OU's with freshman bearing most of the tuition increase. University officials will decide in the spring.
Other plans outlined in Reindl's report depict institutions scrambling for funds.
Oklahoma legislators approved a measure allowing its State Regents for Higher Education to increase resident tuition up to 7 percent for each of the next five years.
Iowa's Board of Regents approved an 18.5 percent tuition increase for the 2002-2003 school year.
Farther north,New York and Virginia might remove tuition freezes in place since the mid-‘90s to confront their funding problems.
In Minnesota,Gov. Jesse Ventura is preparing his state's agencies for 5 to 10 percent reductions in hopes of dealing with a $1.95 billion budget shortfall there.
And in one of the most severe examples of tuition woes,Michigan's legislature is trying to fend off rising costs as the state digests double-digit tuition increases this year and next. Michigan students currently pay an average $5,128 compared to the national midrange of $3,763,according to the association's report.
Ohio's average is $5,198 for in-state students,a $402 average increase from last year.
“All the indications are that the economy is getting back to its feet,” Reindl said. “But students need to be prepared for higher tuition increases than they're accustomed to.”