YSU Works Toward Tuition Guarantee Program to Increase Revenue

By Elizabeth Lehman

Youngstown State University is currently discussing implementation of a tuition guarantee program at the university.

Neal McNally, vice president for finance and business operations, said YSU last raised undergraduate tuition in fall of 2014 by 2.38 percent, which was permitted by state law at that time.

“Since then, YSU has frozen undergraduate tuition as required by current state law,” McNally said.

In 2013, Ohio Revised Code 3345.48 went into effect, which said a university may establish an undergraduate tuition guarantee program. The code’s language establishes circumstances and procedures for a university to increase tuition.

According to the policy, “If, beginning with the academic year that starts four years after Sept. 29, 2013, the board of trustees determines that the general and instructional fees charged under the tuition guarantee have fallen significantly lower than those of other state universities, the board of trustees may submit a request to increase the amount charged to a cohort by a specified percentage to the chancellor, who shall approve or disapprove such a request.”

McNally said YSU is looking to implement such a program.

“For an incoming cohort of students, you can increase their tuition by six percent as long as that tuition remains frozen for four years or 12 consecutive semesters. So YSU is considering this sort of tuition guarantee program,” McNally said.

Dylan Anders is the Student Government Association’s vice president for finance. He said the increase would be six percent the first year. After that, any increases made would follow the inflation rate, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

“So, it would only be six percent in the first year and then after, every new cohort would just be increased by the inflation rate rather than the six percent every year,” Anders said.

According to the BLS, in September of 2017, the yearly inflation rate was at 2.2 percent.

McNally said Ohio’s prevention from raising tuition limited the university’s ability to raise revenue to support investments in campus and faculty enhancements. He said the tuition guarantee would help address that problem.

“We’re sort of limited in our ability to raise revenue because of the tuition cap,” McNally said. “At the same time, state funding has been very flat, so the only foreseeable way we could increase revenue through a price increase is if we implement [the program].”

Anders said the tuition guarantee would benefit the university.

“This … allows the university to continue moving forward, and then the increase in tuition … provides more programming and more budget opportunities for enhancements to campus,” Anders said.

Anders said he hopes increasing tuition would allow the university to remove some fees from students’ bills, such as college, career service and course material fees.

“Since we’re not able to increase tuition, we have to cover our costs, and so the fees that are on the bill now allow us to do that,” Anders said. “And the hope is that through tuition guarantee, the increase in tuition will allow us to kind of absorb some of those fees so that the students don’t see them as separate bill line items, but rather would see them as price of attendance.”

YSU has been looking at Ohio University and Miami University, which have implemented tuition guarantees and the feedback has been good, McNally said.

“Some of the feedback we have gotten, particularly [from] Ohio University, was that when they collapsed some of those miscellaneous fees into just a general tuition amount, students and families really liked it because it was just a simpler tuition bill to read and not to mention that the bill doesn’t change for four years,” McNally said.

The steering committee is currently working on recommendations for the guarantee, he said. Next, the proposed plan will go before the chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education for feedback.

“Once we get some feedback from Columbus, we would take it to our board of trustees as early as December, and once our board approves it, we would send our final plan to the chancellor to have him formally approve it,” McNally said.

McNally said even though the plan is to not implement the guarantee until fall 2018, the objective is to get everything in place sooner to ensure everything goes smoothly.

Anders said as a finance student, he feels the guarantee idea is great.

“I think maybe a student who’s not understanding of how the state university runs might see it as just more money but really what more money is doing is giving our students and the university more opportunity to expand, to provide programming,” Anders said. “More money just allows us to do more for our students and so I think it’s a great way.”