A report by the U.S. Department of Education shows that Miami University is the most expensive four-year public college in the nation, when student aid is part of the equation.
Every year for three years now, the department’s College Affordability and Transparency Center has released its report on colleges that have the highest and lowest tuition. The latest report uses 2011 figures.
The ranking of highest net prices includes not only tuition, but other costs such as books and room-and-board fees, minus grant and scholarship aid. Miami tops that list with a total cost of $24,674. In Ohio, the Ohio State University ranks second at $19,998, and University of Cincinnati ranks third in the state at $19,045.
In terms of tuition costs, Miami is not the highest of four-year public universities — that distinction belongs to the University of Pittsburgh, which charges $16,590 per year, according to the report. By contrast, Miami University’s tuition figure was $13,594, for a rank of 20th in the nation and the highest in Ohio.
Claire Wagner, the spokeswoman for Miami, said the university provided the costs to the U.S. Department of Education, but she said the numbers don’t tell the whole story.
“That (ranking) seems to speak to where universities are getting less support from the state, so the tuition is higher,” she said.
Wagner said state support has declined over the past several years. In the early 1980s, it made up 50 percent of the university’s budget. For fiscal year 2014, that amount was 9.2 percent, a small decline from 9.4 percent in 2013.
This trend of reduced state funding for education has happened nationwide. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, in almost every state, higher education funding remains below pre-recession levels. In Ohio, however, state spending for students increased by 3.2 percent. At the same time, the center’s report said that Ohio is one of nine states “that have made deep cuts to higher education funding and yet are considering or have made sizable tax cuts this year.”
One figure in the U.S. Department of Education report that Wagner calls into question is the “other expenses” amount, which comes out to $4,183, according to the report. However, Miami has that figure being considerably lower because they compute it differently.
“The College Board publishes miscellaneous living expenses lists — one at a moderate level and one expensive list; we use an average of the two …. we started surveying our students and found two years ago that they reported $2,820 in average miscellaneous living expenses, a big difference from $4,183. The figure last year was even lower. But since reporting is several years behind (note, the current chart is from 2011-2012), we may not see a difference in the net cost rank for three or more years,” Wagner said.
Rob Schorman, a Miami University history professor, said he was surprised Miami ranked as high as it did.
“Miami’s tuition is high, but I do think they give financial aid packages to people. I know also that the time to graduation and the graduation rate both are very good at Miami … I think it’s pretty clear that Miami is delivering value for its tuition,” Schorman said.
While the report’s figures are dated, Miami leaders have increased costs in the past month. Starting this fall, in-state students on the Oxford campus will pay $13,533 for tuition and out-of-state students will pay $29,640 — a two percent increase.
While increases in tuition are always a difficult decision for the trustees, the proposed budget also includes an increase in undergraduate scholarships that actually exceeds the growth in undergraduate tuition revenue, Trustee C. Michael Armstrong said when the increase was approved.
Trustees also approved a parking fee increase that will go into effect in 2015. Rates for visitors and contractors will not change, but rates for students and employees will more than double in some cases, although increases for students are not as high. The university will offer discounted rates for employees who carpool.