State board monitors new fee at University of Akron that skirts tuition freeze

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AKRON, Ohio - Ohio's new $71 billion budget, signed just last week by Gov. John Kasich, includes a two-year tuition freeze for state colleges and universities, along with increases in state spending for higher education to help make getting a college degree more affordable.

The trustees for the University of Akron had already approved a new $484 million budget that also includes no increase in tuition, housing and meal costs for undergraduates.

The university also said students will not be charged tuition for taking additional credit hours beyond 13 per semester, up to 18 credit hours. That allows students to take two more credit hours per semester without additional tuition charges.

But the Ohio Board of Regents said it will be closely monitoring a new fee the University of Akron is charging for junior and senior undergraduate classes to make sure it is in line with the intention of the state tuition freeze. A spokesman for the board of regents said the state budget also freezes existing general fees at Ohio colleges and universities.

The University of Akron's new fee charges an additional $50 per credit hour for the upper level courses. That could add $600 or more per semester onto the tuition of full-time junior or senior at the University of Akron.

The university said the "upper division program fee" supports the higher cost of upper-level instruction.

"This would then be seen as a new fee rather than a tuition increase, so we are still learning more details about that," said Board of Regents spokesman Jeff Robinson.

Robinson said this was the first time such a fee has come to the board of regents' attention.

"This is something that we will be looking at closely and certainly as we are trying to get the message out of affordability and accessibility. You know, we want to see what is happening if we see institutions looking to get around tuition caps by using fees in a creative way that maybe had not been introduced before," Robinson said.

"Certainly, in light of a budget that talks about affordability and accessibility for higher education, we do want to keep a close eye on these things that are increasing a student's total bill for attending a college or university in Ohio," he added.

In June, the University of Akron also decreased the fee for six core classes to just $50 per credit hour in a pilot program intended to keep the cost of education affordable. The intention of the pilot program was to eventually increase the number of reduced cost courses to 13.

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