Sunday, April 6, 2003

Miami tuition plan praised
for addressing shift

By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The leader of the nation's major coordinating body for higher education institutions called Miami University's single tuition price proposal a courageous move, one that will spark a larger debate about how college bills should be paid and by whom.

It's a gamble that says those who can pay more will, explains David Ward, president of the American Council on Education in Washington, D.C. The additional funds raised will go to middle-income families in Ohio who make too much money to qualify for federal aid but not enough to relieve their children of significant debt upon graduation.

Miami President James C. Garland said his proposal, which will be presented to the school's board of trustees April 23, would replace those loans with cash grants. If approved, Miami would be the first public school in the country to adopt this tuition model.

"To preserve quality, and at the same time access, I think he is probably (on the right track)," Ward said.

School officials say the move would enable Miami to offer larger scholarship packages to bright Ohio students who have traditionally chosen out-of-state private schools such as the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Ind., and Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tenn., because those schools offer as much as four times the scholarship money Miami can give.

"States are withdrawing subsidy," Ward said. "In a way, this has gone on for 20 years, but this year there has been an upward blip because of the economic situation. (Dr. Garland) is addressing a permanent shift."

Miami, the most expensive public school in the state, charges $7,600 per year in tuition for in-state students on the Oxford campus and $16,300 for non-Ohio students.

If Garland's proposal were in effect today, every Miami student would be charged $16,300. But the university would offer a rollback to Ohio students in the form of two new scholarships, significantly reducing the net cost.

The first, called the Ohio Resident Scholarship, is a set amount equal to or greater than the per-student funding provided by the state. For the first year, that amount would be $5,000. It would be renewed for up to six years.

"Whether you're rich, whether you're poor, you're getting your fair share of what the state is providing," Garland said. "It will highlight dramatically the benefits of being a resident of this state."

The second, a discretionary Ohio Leader Scholarship, also would be given to every student but in varying amounts. This scholarship would be awarded preferentially to Ohioans with the largest financial need and to those majoring in subjects the state finds desirable. Renewals would depend on satisfactory academic progress.

The new plan would have no impact on students now enrolled or admitted for this fall. Larger scholarships would be granted to Ohio residents from lower- and middle-income families starting in fall 2004.

Although some students would pay more under the new plan, officials said, the university's insufficient financial aid has made it hard to provide opportunities for Ohio students of all income levels. Miami meets about 68 percent of the identified need of those who quality for financial aid compared to many private schools that meet 95 to 100 percent, said Richard Little, a Miami spokesman.

"We compete with a lot of fine institutions for the same students. It's great that Miami University is going to be able to offer more competitive, less burdensome financial aid options," said Joe Russo, director of student financial services at the University Notre Dame.


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