By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
OXFORD - Miami University approved an 8.5 percent tuition boost Friday, the first public college in Greater Cincinnati to announce an increase for the 2004-05 school year.
Miami officials blamed the increase on flat support from the state for higher education, double-digit increases in health-care costs and increases in financial aid to students. Over the past decade, declining state support and increasing costs have forced Ohio colleges and universities to slash their budgets and raise tuition, often by double-digit annual amounts.
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Two private schools, Xavier University and the College of Mount St. Joseph, have already raised tuition for next fall.
Xavier will charge $20,100 per year, a 6.6 percent increase over last year's $18,850. Students at the Mount will receive letters in the next few days announcing a 7 percent increase, from $16,000 to $17,200.
Two public universities, Northern Kentucky University and University of Cincinnati, are scheduled to address the issue in March.
In Oxford, Miami's new tuition and scholarship plan - a first of its kind in public higher education - will be implemented this fall. Both in-state and out-of-state students will be charged the same rate as part of a comprehensive plan that school officials say achieves two goals:
Recognizes that Miami's chief competitors are private schools.
Helps middle-income families in Ohio better afford a Miami education.
Next fall, the sticker price for every student at Miami will be $19,642. But only out-of-state students will pay that full price.
"One of our main goals of the plan was to make Miami more affordable to lower- and middle-income families," said President James Garland.
The restructuring, announced in April 2003, is an effort to replace student loans with cash scholarships for families that make too much money to qualify for federal aid programs but still have financial need. The additional money will give the university greater flexibility in offering better financial aid to students from middle-income families in Ohio.
The plan will affect students in different ways.
Students like Dana Bouchard, a 19-year-old freshman from Littleton, Colo., came to Miami to study communications. She will have to pay the full price.
"My parents are pretty willing to pay, but definitely if I don't get out in four years, I'll have to pay," she said. "And they expect me to work to pay for my meal plan, gas and any entertainment."
For Ohio students who are already enrolled at Miami, the new tuition structure will only show up as paper changes on their bills. But they will pay an 8.5 percent increase over the 2003-04 tuition rate - $9,063.
The news wasn't welcome to sophomore Kelly Vonder Haar, a 20-year-old chemistry major from Coldwater, Ohio.
"It means for me I joined ROTC to see if I could get a scholarship," she said. "I'll know in July. I work a lot of hours to pay for school. It's going to mean a lot more working hours. The only way I can stay here to do research is to get a scholarship."
The impact of the tuition increase on incoming freshman from Ohio will vary. Depending on how much scholarship money the university offers, these students will pay between $8,442 and $9,642.
Every Ohio freshman will automatically be awarded two scholarships to offset the new rate. The first is a $5,000 Ohio Resident Scholarship, slightly more than the per-student subsidy provided by the state. The second, the Ohio Leader Scholarship, ranges between $5,000 and $6,200, depending on need.
Miami officials say about one-third of incoming freshmen from moderate- to lower-income families - whose income generally is $90,000 or less - will be awarded enough scholarship money to soften the tuition increase.
"These are exactly the families that were being priced out of a Miami education," Garland said.
One-third from families with high incomes will pay more than the 8.5 percent increase. The remainder will pay 8.5 percent, Garland said.
"In the coming years, some students will pay more to come to Miami, but they're the ones who can (afford) more," Garland said.
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