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Faster Internet, bigger concerts and increased counseling: How the 2017-18 tuition hike affects students

Tuition will be raised 3.4 percent for the 2017-18 school year, which is below the national average for four-year, private institutions. (Northern Review photo/ Grant Pepper)

What you need to know

  • Tuition will increase 3.4 percent in 2017-18
  • Structure of student tuition, fees has changed
  • Student government, health and technology will now benefit from mandatory fees

Tuition costs across all four of Ohio Northern’s undergraduate colleges will increase by 3.4 percent in the 2017-18 school year. This is not unusual, however, as Ohio Northern has increased tuition costs six times in the past seven years, according to school president Dan DiBiasio.

This coming school year is different, however, which prompted DiBiasio to send an email to students and their parents last December. The message detailed the university’s plan to remodel the way in which tuition funds are to be used, by adding a mandatory fee which would support different aspects of campus life.

This fee, formerly called the “Technology Fee,” is the “General Student Fee.” It was increased from $580 to $870, and will now help pay for much more than just technology.

Student government and health services will both benefit from this fee increase. This means more money for student clubs, campus concerts, additional student health staff members, faster campus Internet, and other functions (keep reading to learn more about where this additional money will go).

Tuition (which includes faculty salaries), room and board costs all increased next year as well, due to standard marketplace competition and inflation factors.

ONU’s 3.4 percent cost increase falls below the national average for private, four-year institutions in 2017-18, which is 3.6 percent, according to the College Board’s 2016 annual report.

Northern also stays in the middle-of-the-pack in comparison to other OAC schools’ tuition rates, as the Arts & Sciences and Business colleges (who share identical pricing) rank fifth in the conference in terms of lowest tuition.

The Engineering college, however, ranks ninth and the Pharmacy school places 10th of 12 schools (Ohio Northern is the only OAC school to have distinctively different pricing across a breadth of colleges, so all of their colleges were considered separately).

While it becomes increasingly expensive to attend ONU, as it does for schools across the country, Northern actually saw a spike in enrollment this past school year -- the undergraduate population increased by eight percent, according to DiBiasio.

“We’re trying to really be cognizant of affordability and quality,” DiBiasio said. “As long as we keep our costs reasonably affordable and our quality high, we believe that we will see increases in enrollment, and indeed that occurred this last fall.”

For current students, sentiment is mixed concerning the tuition raise. Junior electrical engineering major Joe Riehl says that while he was initially upset when he got DiBiasio's email, he trusted ONU in the process.

“I think it’s unsurprising that I was angry and confused as to why the cost was going up considering I’m already worried about the massive amount of debt I’m going into,” Riehl said. “However, after calming down I figured there was a good reason as to why the tuition had to go up, and this school has treated me extremely well so now I guess I’ve relaxed a little bit.”

DiBiasio added that, with Ohio Northern’s job placement rate -- 94 percent of the class of 2016 had jobs six months after graduation -- most consider the opportunity for students to be worth the financial risk.

“As long as we’re in the 90-95 percent range for [job] placement, I think students and parents are thinking it’s worth the cost,” DiBiasio said.

But next year, as previously mentioned, tuition money will be going to new places. Where is it going and how will it be used? Those questions are answered here.

 

Student government and activities

Who’s it going to? Student Senate and Student Planning Committee (SPC).

What will it be used for?

  • Student clubs and organizations
  • Campus events (concerts, camel rides, comedians)
  • Majors in need

For student government, it’s all about the rollover.

Not only will both the Student Senate and SPC receive respective chunks of the General Student Fee, but they will also be able to roll over funds starting next year.

“What this allows is, if during a certain year organizations aren’t requesting more additional funding, we could potentially roll over 10 thousand dollars,” Drew Huff, the 2016-17 Senate president, said.

This money that Student Senate saves could be used in many ways. The “Tunes on the Tundra” concerts that they are able to host now “max out at about $30 thousand,” according to Huff, because of their previous inability to save money. But with the new rollover structure, Senate would be able to potentially pay for an $100 thousand concert in four years if they planned to do so.

Senate could also use the mandatory funding to help fund student clubs and organizations. This could potentially help the club volleyball team host a fundraising tournament, or give a fraternity funding for an alumni event. Senate can also help fund majors with low endowments if they need financial assistance.

Huff estimates that $10 of each student’s General Student Fee will go to Senate. With this guaranteed funding, the Senate’s budget will increase from approximately $60 thousand to $90 thousand. Huff says that around $80 thousand was requested from Senate last year by clubs, organizations or majors in need.

“Pretty much everyone on this campus is involved in one organization or another. And every year, you’re probably wanting to have that organization have some additional funding from somewhere on this campus,” Huff said. “With the potential for that additional funding to now be granted to them by senate, that’s essentially what this can do. Is it being used for good? Yeah. Because virtually all the senate funds are, in some way, shape or form, distributed back to the students on campus.”

The Student Planning Committee will also receive funding from the General Student Fee, although committee advisor Scott Parson does not know exactly how much yet. The rollover model will be applied to the SPC as well, which gives the committee similar opportunities to save for bigger projects.

“The biggest effect of that is that it will help with planning future events,” Parson said. “You can now book stuff really far in advance.”

The SPC plans to put this newfound funding towards more campus events. They currently host annual camel rides on the tundra, comedians, bingo and more.

 

Student health

Who’s it going to? The Health Center and Counseling Center.

What will it be used for?

  • Disability coordination staffing
  • Continued free health care

The Counseling Center could potentially gain a staff member who is solely dedicated to disability coordination services, according to Bill Ballard, Vice President for Financial Affairs. This would help alleviate pressure from the two doctors who currently staff the center, who have recently been “pretty much booked every hour, on the hour” according to Adriane Thompson-Bradshaw, Vice President of Student Affairs.

Adding staff that will work solely with disability coordination services is an idea that has been in the works for "several years," according to Ballard. Among other duties, this staff member would help disabled students with test accommodations, Mike Schafer, Director of the Counseling Center, said.

“We haven’t had a resource dedicated, if you will, specifically towards disability coordination services. We’re handling it, we believe, OK, but it’s a highly regulated environment [and] the remedies can be different for different folks with different needs,” Ballard said. “We’ve felt like this for several years, that we’ve needed a resource that’s more dedicated and hands-on with that. Now, we have to decide what the balance is between the disability side, if you will, and the counseling support side, and what kind of folks are out there that can fill those roles.”

Along with additional staffing in the Counseling Center, the Health Center will also benefit from General Student Fee funding.

The university will continue to provide free health care to students, but that comes with a price. Karen Schroeder, Director of the Health Center, says that healthcare costs -- even including services such as flu vaccinations -- rise every year.

And because the Health Center does not charge students per visit or bill their insurance, the money comes from tuition fees.

But Schroeder says that in comparison to the cost of seeing a family doctor, the tuition fee seems cheap.

“If a student was going to a family doctor or urgent care, that cost would be at least $100 per visit,” Schroeder said. “A student can come in here every day of the week if they wanted to, and they’re not being charged anything.”

“Really, it’s [about] cost-effectiveness. By having a health fee, it helps to keep us providing that type of low-cost health care service to the student.”

Schroeder has introduced new services and added staff members to the Health Center in her seven years as director. There is now a nurse practitioner who works five days a week, and students can receive stitches or sutures there, so they can avoid the cost and time of having to travel to the hospital.

Schroeder has seen “about a 20 percent increase” in patient traffic (across all diagnoses) to the health center since her first year, 2010.

 

Technology

Who’s it going to? Information Technology.

What will it be used for?

  • Faster Internet
  • Updating operating systems

This past year, the Information Technology department used fee-based funding to increase the Internet bandwidth on campus from 750 megabits per second to one gigabit per second. This year, with more funding, the department will increase the bandwidth again.

“It’ll be similar to what we did last year,” Jeff Rieman, Director of Information Technology, said. “[250 megabits] seems to be the common rate at which it increases.”

Rieman says that the department will “open it up” at the beginning of the year, testing the performance of different bandwidths to see how much the campus needs.

“We’ll pick a good cost point, where it makes sense to raise it [to that point], and we’ll let it run at that for a while,” Rieman said. “And then we can always increase it throughout the year too, if we need to.”

The demand for faster Internet is growing, Rieman believes, due to the recent spike in enrollment and the increasing amount of video being watched by students.

“The more students you have using it, the more bandwidth you need,” Rieman said. “Also, just the types of services that you guys are using. The more you use things like streaming video -- Netflix, YouTube -- really increases the need for bandwidth.”

Along with increased Internet bandwidth, the IT department will use tuition funding to renew software licensing contracts (such as that with Microsoft, so that programs like Word and Excel will remain free to students) and install the latest operating systems on campus computers.

IT also looks to ‘refresh student labs’ and perform Windows updates with the additional funds.

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