By DAVID JACOBS, Associated Press Writer
COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - Ohio State University, the state's largest public university, said Friday it was considering a two-tiered tuition increase that would raise tuition by 35 percent for new students starting this summer.
The announcement came two days after Gov. Bob Taft asked the state's 13 four-year public universities to avoid tuition increases of 10 percent or more during the academic year. He said he would consider asking the Legislature to reinstate tuition caps if the schools allow unreasonable fee increases.
Joe Andrews, a Taft spokesman, said the governor was "extremely concerned" about Ohio State's proposal. Taft was not aware the proposal was coming, Andrews said.
Ohio State President William Kirwan on Friday outlined the tuition proposal, which was part of a $73 million funding package that included budget reductions and reallocations.
Current in-state tuition is $4,761, plus a mandatory $27 bus fee. Under the proposal, it would go up to $6,417 for new students. Tuition for current in-state students would go up by 9 percent.
Out-of-state tuition would go up by 6.4 percent for current students and 15 percent for new students. Current tuition is $13,527.
University trustees are expected to vote on the recommendations in March.
Kirwan told the board Friday the tuition increase was needed to maintain current funding levels, improve education and recruit and retain faculty and staff. The university also is dealing with a $13 million cut in state funding this year.
"Quality comes at a cost," he said. "It is essential that we take the actions outlined today. To do otherwise will do enormous harm to the quality of the university and, thereby, enormous harm to the future of Ohio."
Lawmakers said the proposal would provide ammunition for renewing a cap on tuition increases, which the Legislature dropped last year.
"Oh my golly," said Senate Finance Chairman James Carnes, a St. Clairsville Republican, when he learned of Ohio State's proposal.
Carnes said it appeared the universities were going back on their promise not to enact such large increases if the cap were removed. "The debate's back on if they do that," he said.
A 35 percent increase "is extraordinary, really high," said Senate Education Chairman Robert Gardner, a Madison Republican. "I don't think it's appropriate, I think there's other areas you could look at to cut first."
The university plans to allocate 30 percent to 40 percent of the revenue from the tuition hikes toward financial aid, Kirwan said.
Ohio State also plans to seek additional funding for financial aid through fund-raisers and the federal government. The school is spending $32 million this year on financial aid.
"The governor most appropriately wants to keep our universities affordable and accessible," Kirwan said. "So do we. That is why we once again have tied enhanced financial aid to increase tuition."
"I think the current students are going to be happy that we were able to protect their current expectation of a 9 percent increase, and the extra money that the incoming students will be paying will be well worth it for the services that are being provided," said Eddie Pauline, president of the school's student government.
Other proposals to cut costs include increased health care co-pays and energy savings through competitive bidding. Last year, Ohio State said it planned to eliminate 400 to 800 full-time positions, mainly through attrition.
"I'm not sure what information is available to the governor, but I think it's very important for everyone to understand the context within which we're discussing tuition increases," Kirwan said. "The university has done a very substantial cut of its own budget and we recognize there has to be some combination of cuts and tuition increases to get us where we need to be."
Ohio State also said it plans to increase faculty salaries and spend $30 million to $34 million to attract and retain high-quality faculty.
There are about 31,000 employees at the school, 23,000 of whom are full-time. The university has about 3,000 faculty members and 16,000 administrative and civil-service workers.
(Copyright 2002 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)