State university students pay more, get less

Posted 11:13 a.m. May 10

by Elspeth A. Weingarten
U-WIRE Washington Bureau

Students are paying more and getting less, said Bob Samples, Director of University Communications and Marketing at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

“We’re losing state funding and we’re raising tuition to respond to that,” Samples said. But he said his school’s reaction to the bad economy is the same as all others.

Samples said declining state support correlates directly with increased tuition.

“When the state support goes down, it has to be picked up somewhere,” he said.

And even increased tuition doesn’t make up for it, so the school is freezing salaries of faculty and staff; cutting financial aid; and offering early retirement programs for faculty.

Students are getting less, he said, because the school is less able to provide institutional based financial aid, and because low-enrollment programs have had to be cancelled, which means bigger classes. The school may not offer programs or classes as often as in the past, which could also delay graduation, Samples said.

But, despite this, enrollment went up 2 percent last year, and 4-5 percent across the three campuses in the University of Missouri system.

Sally Martin O’Briant, assistant director of public affairs at the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, said higher education is feeling the pinch of unprecedented budget cuts.

When state governments don’t have much money to spend, they cut, and it is affecting students negatively, O’Briant said.

Universities are cutting costs, so they are cutting courses, cutting departments, and cutting teaching positions, O’Briant said. This results in bigger classes, she said, because, at the same time, there is a demographic bulge of more and more students applying — without the facilities to accommodate them.

Universities are trimming their budgets by cutting what they can from areas such as administration budgets and travel budgets for staff.

“Schools are trying to raise more money, so they are raising tuition”, O’Briant said.

But as long as the state governments are facing this huge fiscal crunch, state universities are going to be threatened, either in terms of tuition or in terms of fewer services, she said.

O’Briant said the outlook does not look promising. She said the decrease in funding from the state puts more pressure on students to pay higher tuition bills, so it could deter some from going to college

Elizabeth Conlisk, director of media at Ohio State University, said the state has cut $39 million in funding to the school over the past three years. In response, the school has made cuts, but not to any filled faculty positions, Conlisk said.

“We’ve strategically left positions unfilled,” she said.

Conlisk said the school tries to protect students by not cutting any student services but, instead, sacrificing aesthetics, by not cutting the grass or painting buildings as often.

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