Governor proposes reinstating 6 percent cap on tuition increases

By ANDREW WELSH-HUGGINS, AP Statehouse Correspondent

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Gov. Bob Taft on Monday proposed reinstating a 6 percent cap on tuition increases at Ohio's public colleges and universities for the next two-year budget.

He proposed a special 9 percent cap for Ohio State University to allow the school to catch up with the tuition levels of the 12 other state-supported colleges. He also wants to let public colleges and universities charge incoming students a $300 fee.

Taft (pictured, above) also announced proposed increased funding for universities for the budget year beginning July 1.

Lawmakers would have to approve the tuition caps. A 6 percent cap on tuition increases was eliminated two years ago. The budget at that time proposed almost no new funding for the public universities.

Taft, a Republican in his second term, on Monday also released specifics about education cuts he said would be necessary if lawmakers don't pass tax increases to fill a $720 million deficit in the current budget.

For example, Taft said Cleveland city schools would lose $8.5 million in funding this spring if he has to cut school funding.

Ohio State would lose $7.7 million.

Taft urged legislators to approve his tax plan "rather than forcing cuts that will hurt Ohio's ability to position itself as a leader in the new economy."

The governor warned last year that he would be forced to reinstate the caps after some universities imposed rare midyear hikes and others proposed double-digit increases.

In his inaugural speech earlier this month, Taft announced the creation of a committee to study ways of improving higher education in Ohio.

The presidents of Ohio's 13 public four-year universities have asked Taft not to limit tuition increases. They say the schools' trustee boards must be able to raise fees depending on each school's circumstances.

"However, we've asked that if caps are a political necessity, that they are as flexible as they can be," said Jim McCollum, executive director of the presidents' group, the Inter-University Council.

Among the presidents' requests:

  • Link caps to levels of state support, so schools that get less state money are able to raise tuition higher than those that get the most state aid.
  • Allow campuses to increase tuition by a certain dollar amount, and not just limit them to a certain percentage.
  • Authorize two-tiered tuition-hike systems that would allow higher tuition increases for incoming students.

"There's a not a commitment to the flexible principals, nor do we know that there will be a cap," McCollum said Friday. "We certainly know it is under serious consideration."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)