Tuesday, May 22, 2001

Two-year colleges may get relief

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS — Students at Ohio's two-year colleges would get slight relief from expected tuition increases in the latest version of the state spending plan, due today.

        Senate Republicans are ready to restore about $16 million over two years to Access Challenge grants, which have helped community and technical colleges freeze tuition some years and lower it other years.

        One budget proposal could lead to a 15 percent tuition increase at Columbus State Community College next year, said Michelle Weston, a second-year student.

        “Everyone expects prices to rise with inflation,” she said. “It's just a real shock to the system for prices to rise five times the rate of inflation.”

        The Senate Finance Committee last week reduced funding for Access grants to $100 million over two years. That was down from the House version of the state budget, which provided $141 million, and Gov. Bob Taft's, which proposed $167 million.

        The new Senate proposal would increase funding to about $116 million over two years. The change was pushed by Finance Chairman Doug White, a Republican from Manchester.

        Mr. White had to overcome opposition from some fellow Republicans, who questioned the growth of the grant program from $12 million in 1998 to $65 million this year.

        As the House and then the Senate reduced the Access grants, some lawmakers were concerned that Ohio's Success grants weren't being cut as well. Those grants, for Ohio's four-year colleges and universities, help at-risk students graduate and help other students graduate within five years.

        “The concern was, two-year institutions will say, "What is it about us that people don't like?'” said Sen. Jay Hottinger, a Newark Republican. “When you're only looking at Access Challenge, it looks like they're being picked on.”

        Mr. Hottinger today will propose reducing Success grant funding from $48 million annually to $40 million.


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- Two-year colleges may get relief