Ohio University working on flat four-year cost

PARKERSBURG – Ohio University wants to offer students a flat four-year cost for higher education programs.

Roderick J. McDavis, president of Ohio University, said the college is in the final stages of having a tuition and fee plan approved for the fall of 2015. That plan would allow the college to offer enrolling students a set rate which includes tuition, room and board, and all other fees, that would remain fixed for four years.

“You only pay one figure per year for all four years,” he said.

So, McDavis said, if tuition costs a student $22,000 for the first year, it would be $22,000 each subsequent year for four years.

Each new enrolling class would receive a new fixed rate for 12 semesters over four years.

McDavis said a change in state law allows for the for the new pricing system, and Ohio University likely will be the first higher education institution in the state to take advantage of the change. The college’s board of trustees approved the plan about two weeks ago, and it will be sent on to the state’s chancellor of higher education for approval.

If approved, it would begin for freshmen who enroll for the fall of 2015.

“We think it is going to have a positive impact on our students and families,” McDavis said.

The change would only apply to the college’s Athens campus, not its five regional campuses or online courses.

McDavis said most of the university’s enrollment growth in recent years has been online and through the regional campuses.

Those institutions, however, are already cheaper when it comes to tuition and fees, he said, and cater more to non-traditional students or those who want to spend their first two years at a regional location.

There are exceptions within the plan for students who cannot finish their degree within four years. For example, McDavis said the university’s engineering program takes a minimum of five years, so the price would be locked in for five years instead of four for those students.

Other exceptions for catastrophic illness, military service and other factors outside of a student’s control will be included, he said.

However, for many students it will be their responsibility to finish their degrees within the allotted time.

“We want to squeeze a little bit to increase that four-year graduation rate,” McDavis said. “We’re hopeful that with this guarantee, parents will have a different conversation with Johnny or Suzie. The clock is ticking.”

McDavis said he believes only 40 percent of the university’s students complete a degree within four years. But, he said, officials are reviewing and streamlining existing programs to make sure they can be successfully completed within the time allotted.