Culture

Ohio's Ashland University Slashes Tuition by $10,000

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Ohio’s Ashland University, 70 miles south of Cleveland, announced this week their decision to slash annual tuition by 37% — more than $10,000 for the 2014-2015 academic year.

In a press conference attended by Ohio Congressmen Steve Tiberi (R-OH) and Bob Gibbs (R-OH), Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder, and John Carey, Chancellor for the Ohio Board of Regents, Ashland President Dr. Fred Finks said, “There are a lot of factors that went into making this decision. Number one, we wanted to make sure we were being transparent in our pricing and our scholarship.”

Calling the cut a “tuition reset,” Finks said that many students and parents were deterred by “sticker shock”at the private university and didn’t examine the real price, after financial aid was applied, so greater transparency was needed.

“Over the past decade everyone in higher education has danced around the subject of the rising cost of college. Yet few have been willing to tackle the issue and the complications involved,” said Finks. “Ashland University knows the importance of positioning ourselves to meet the rising demand for quality education at an affordable price. We have decided now is the time to act.”

Scott Van Loo, Vice President of Student Enrollment Management and Marketing at Ashland, said the tuition reset  — to $18,908 per year — means prospective students can now get a top-notch private education at an affordable cost. The total cost for tuition, fees, room and board will be $29,354 for the 2014-15 academic year.

Congressman Pat Tiberi said to “mark the date. ” He said, “This is the beginning of something special that I think is going to happen, not just across this state, but across our nation.” He noted the problem of the higher education bubble, which contributes to rising tuition costs. “There’s a history here of many congresses and many presidents raising Pell grants. And then something else happens — college tuition usually goes up after it. And I tell them, ‘Why don’t you try to figure out the problem from the root?'”  Tiberi said that Ashland was doing that now, sending a message to students “who might not think that they can go to a private institution like Ashland.”

Congressman Bob Gibbs said the massive student loan debt in the country is not sustainable. “So I really commend Ashland University on taking this step and moving forward and the opportunities that present themselves to the students that attend Ashland,” Gibbs said.

“Those dramatic increases [in tuition prices and student loan debt] have disadvantaged a lot of young people — a lot of bright young people,” added Ohio House Speaker William Batchelder. “And I am so proud that Ashland County is leading the nation in terms of helping our young people.”

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While Ashland University is slashing tuition prices, it will also reduce scholarship amounts, so students may not see a significant savings.

According to Loo, “This move means Ashland will reduce, but not eliminate, the dollar amounts for grants and scholarships,” he said. “We are seeking to move from a high-tuition/high-discount model to a lower-tuition/lower-discount model, which will actually reduce the net costs for returning students when compared to the typical annual 4 percent increase that they experience under the current pricing and financial aid structure.”

In other words, students will save money over the school’s usual 4 percent tuition increase, but not necessarily over the current pricing model.

However, the school’s website says that, “This is really about becoming more transparent in our pricing structure.” In the past, many students received tuition discounts in the form of grants and scholarships to offset costs, which artificially inflated tuition prices.

Ashland University has also taken other steps in recent years to make college more affordable:

  • Reduced the minimal number of credit hours needed to complete an undergraduate bachelor’s degree from 128 to 120.

  • Instituted a three-year degree program that will allow students to earn a degree in less time and for less money.

  • Established a four-year graduation guarantee program that will help keep college costs predictable for families.

  • launched a five-year accelerated accounting degree program that allows students to complete bachelor’s and master’s programs in less time than it would for separate degrees.

Ashland University, with 2200 undergraduate students, offers nearly 70 undergraduate majors and nine pre-professional programs, including actuarial science, toxicology, entrepreneurship, and a finance program with a real time trading room. It offers most traditional liberal arts majors as well as a wide range of majors in business and education. The school is home to the Ashbrook Center for Public Affairs.  The Center’s programs are “dedicated to the scholarly defense of individual liberty, limited constitutional government and civic morality, which together constitute our democratic way of life.” Students in the Ashbrook Scholar Program study the Constitution, the writings of the Founding Fathers, and the classics in order to “assist students in acquiring the intellectual and moral virtues required for thoughtful citizenship.” The University is also home to Ashland Theological Seminary.