Monday, May 28, 2001

Lawmakers agree to remove all caps on college tuition

By Andrew Welsh-Huggins
The Associated Press

        COLUMBUS, Ohio — Lawmakers agreed Sunday to eliminate tuition caps at Ohio's public colleges and universities as part of the state budget deliberations.

        House and Senate lawmakers, working out their differences over the coming $45 billion state budget, lifted the caps for two-year community and technical colleges and for Ohio's 13 four-year public universities.

        The House had lifted the caps only in the budget's second year, under its plan approved earlier this month. The Senate proposed completely removing the caps. House lawmakers agreed Sunday to follow the Senate plan.

        Gov. Bob Taft opposes removing the caps except for Ohio State University, saying higher tuition will hurt Ohioans trying to earn college degrees. Taft supported a 9 percent cap for Ohio State, saying it successfully argued it needed to raise tuition to fall in line with comparable universities.

        “The governor still thinks it's not the way to go,” spokesman Kevin Kellems said Sunday night of lifting the caps. “So there remains a difference in opinion on keeping tuition affordable.”

        However, Mr. Taft hasn't said he would veto the cap removal, Mr. Kellems said.

        Many of Ohio's four-year institutions raised their tuition up to the cap last year. Bowling Green State University, Ohio University, Ohio State and the University of Toledo all raised tuition 6 percent. Miami University raised tuition and fees 5.8 percent.

        “We're glad to see them lifted,” said Randi Thomas, a Miami University lobbyist. “They make it tougher knowing your fiscal situation and hard to plan for your future. The cap arguably perpetuates going to the limit every year.”

        Ohio's two-year colleges have kept tuition frozen some years and reduced it other years thanks to the state's Access Challenge grants. The state first awarded the grants in 1998 to help these schools keep tuition low to increase enrollment.

        Taft proposed $167 million for the grants over the next two years, but the House reduced that to $141 million and the Senate further reduced it to $114 million.

        Community colleges on Friday warned the current Access funding could lead to tuition increases of 12 to 13 percent. They want the Access funding returned to the House level.

        Sen. Jeff Jacobson, a Phillipsburg Republican, questioned the accuracy of the two-year colleges' tuition estimates.

        Senate President Richard Finan, a Cincinnati Republican, said Sunday he agrees that more cuts are necessary to state agencies. Lawmakers must decide how deep those cuts would be once they work out smaller budget details.


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