Public Universities Offer Extra Financial Help in Uncertain Economy

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Kent State University official Pete Goldsmith says about five percent fewer students are expected to attend class in January. In past tough economic times, college attendance has gone up, but this time there's fear people will stay away. That's why KSU officials decided to offer emergency loans to students whose financial situation changes, reach out to freshman who don't re-enroll in spring and -- at least for the time being -- to make a commitment not to raise tuition, even for graduate students.

Goldsmith: "Really, it's a confidence factor. It's really a matter of, 'Do we think things are going to get worse?' That's what we see that's a little bit different and could affect people's decision making."

Ohio's four-year colleges agreed two years ago to hold the price of undergraduate tuition until July, when the new state budget takes effect. Now some schools, including Kent and Youngstown State, are willing to go even further. Schools may be trying to keep students in class while they can because they know tuition rates might go up in the summer. That's when Governor Ted Strickland will likely be forced to cut aid to colleges to balance the new budget.

In other words, expect the tuition freeze to hold with the snow, but melt away by summer. So, says Bruce Johnson. He represents 14 university presidents as director of the Inter-University Council of Ohio.

Johnson: "In the budget that passed the general assembly, they gave the universities a 10 percent increase in subsidy in order to compensate for the fact that there needed to be a three or four percent increase in tuition."

Johnson says universities will need twice as much in state support to keep them from asking students to pay more.

Johnson: "And that's just highly unlikely."

University leaders are like most Ohioans, Johnson says. They're scared. And, they're biding their time, hoping cash promised by President Elect Obama for education and to shore up the economy, appears in 2009.

Kymberli Hagelberg, 90.3

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