University of Akron credit hour fee hike angers many

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AKRON, Ohio - State Representative Greta Johnson of Akron says her office has been flooded with phone calls and emails from parents and students over the past week after the University of Akron announced it was increasing fees for junior and senior level courses by $50 per credit hour.

The University explained that the increase reflects the higher cost of those courses.

The announcement came one week after Governor John Kasich signed a state budget that included a two-year tuition freeze for all state colleges and universities, in an effort to try to make higher education more affordable and accessible.

"There's the real effort to make higher education affordable and that freeze in the budget was one of the very few bright spots of the budget that did end up being passed," said Johnson.

"For this promise to come out of Columbus from the legislature that at least students will know where they are going to be in the next two years. To have that upended, and now an additional 150-dollars for every three credit class, that's where I really took issue," she told Fox 8 News on Tuesday.

In June the university also passed its own budget that included no increase in tuition.

But the president and vice president of the local chapter of the American Association of University Professors calls that "disingenuous."

"I can't say I disagree with them. It certainly is going to cost students who are giving a great effort to try to graduate on time a real financial hardship," said Johnson.

The undergraduate student government at the university has also issued an open letter to University of Akron President Scott Scarborough voicing their concerns about the new fee.

In the letter they say "an overwhelming and unprecedented number of students have reached out to (undergraduate student government) to voice their dissatisfaction..."

Student government President Taylor Swift and Vice President Richard Angeletti explain the current situation is unaffordable to currently enrolled students.

"That's one of the reasons I was trying to reach out. When students are calling my office saying 'I'm looking to see whether other institutions are more affordable,' that's heartbreaking to me," said Johnson.

The University on Friday  announced plans to eliminate 215 positions on campus to try to erase a $60-million deficit.

University of Akron Vice President of Student Advancement Lawrence Burns explained the additional fee for junior and senior level courses will also help pay off part of that deficit.

But Johnson says she is also concerned about the debt that students and their families have to pay.

"I don't want this to turn into a war on the University of Akron. I love this place. I graduated from here three times. I am a Zip for life. I want to work with them but part of my job is to be the voice of the people who feel they are not being heard, and that is the students who called my office, that is the babysitter who is watching my kids right now, those are the kids who are walking these halls right now who want to get their degree from the University of Akron," said Johnson.

In response to Johnson's concerns the university released a statement on Tuesday that reads:

"The upper-division program fees reflect the higher costs of those courses and were one part of the university's plan to deal with a $60 million dollar financial problem," UA Vice President of Student Advancement Lawrence Burns said in a prepared statement. "Additionally, juniors and seniors are receiving more than $22.2 million on scholarship aid.  We are reviewing the questions that have been raised and appreciate the opportunity to discuss them."