OSU eliminates 278 student fees but still falls short of UD model

FILE: Ohio State University.
FILE: Ohio State University.

Ohio State University is taking a page from the University of Dayton’s playbook to lower costs and make them more transparent to students — but Ohio’s biggest public school still isn’t going as far as the state’s largest private college did a few years ago.

Ohio State announced a number of new cost-saving measures last week, including the elimination of around 70 percent of fees students pay for individual classes. The change means 278 course fees in total will be eliminated.

Fees will remain in place for classes that rely heavily on labs and for things like first aid training, according to the university. The fee decision is one of four new measures Ohio State is implementing to save its tens of thousands of students a combined $1.9 million a year.

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“We are working hard to create savings for students, make costs more predictable and create increased opportunities for families across our state and nation,” OSU President Michael Drake said in a prepared statement.

Course fees grew from 191 in fiscal year 2011 to around 400 in fiscal year 2015 when Ohio State instituted a moratorium on new fees, according to documents presented to the school’s board of trustees last week.

By eliminating course fees, the university is trying to “simplify costs” and “increase transparency,” board documents said.

“We explore every opportunity that will help advance access to a more affordable Buckeye education,” OSU Provost Bruce McPheron said in a prepared statement.

OSU’s move is similar to what UD did in 2013 when it established its net tuition guarantee, which completely eliminated fees.

Overall, UD used to charge for 35 different fees and had fewer than 10 course fees, spokeswoman Meagan Pant said. Those charges included a $90 fee to graduate and $65 for each hour spent in a laboratory.

But, Ohio State’s new fee structure doesn’t actually go as far as UD’s, said Jason Reinoehl, vice president for enrollment management at UD. Ohio State’s students will still pay a number of fees while UD students don’t pay any because it’s all rolled into one tuition price.

A number of factors played into UD’s decision to fully eliminate fees, Reinoehl said.

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From an “administrative perspective,” Reinoehl said it can be “pretty cumbersome” to manage and process dozens or even hundreds of different fees annually. UD also wanted to prevent students from feeling “nickled and dimed” by unexpected fees that used to pop up for classes, facilities or other activities.

“It’s completely transparent. … That’s what we owe to our families,” Reinoehl said.

Several area colleges have tried to copy UD’s approach in some form in the five years since the school implemented its net tuition guarantee program.

In fact, Ohio State launched a fixed tuition program a year ago for the class of 2021 and beyond, and Wright State University just began offering a similar program this fall. Miami University and Ohio University were also early adopters of similar tuition pricing programs that are becoming the norm in the Buckeye state.

The difference, however, is that each public school’s tuition pricing program still requires students to pay separate fees, which Reinoehl maintains makes a big difference and still sets UD apart from the competition.

“The key differentiater is that we have no fees,” he said. “I think until there’s a university that has no fees, our approach stands alone.”


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By the numbers

278: Number of course fees OSU eliminated.

70: Percent of course fees ended at OSU.

400: Number of course fees at OSU before change.

$1.9 million: Money new cost saving measures wil save OSU students.