When the Ohio Senate signed off on an increase in funding for higher education earlier this year, it also gave administrators some homework.
At the behest of Senate President Keith Faber, the senate added an amendment to the state budget that requires all institutions of higher education to implement a plan that spells out way students can save 5 percent on the cost of their education.
“Even though the Senate enacted a two-year tuition freeze in the budget for the next two years, we wanted to do even more to make a college education more affordable for students and families,” said State Sen. Randy Gardner, R-Bowling Green, who chairs the Senate Finance Higher Education Subcommittee.
The plans cover not just tuition and fees, but room and board costs, textbooks and planning.
The due date for submitting that plan is Oct. 15.
Bowling Green State University administrators have drafted a response a dense nine-page summary, but they’ve also put together a draft of a breezy pamphlet, “5 Ways To Save,” summarizing those opportunities.
Both were presented to the Board of Trustees in September.
“The expectation is we’ll lay out a plan by which students are offered the opportunity to reduce their costs of completing a degree by at least 5 percent,” said Provost Rodney Rogers.
The student can start saving even before they set foot on campus. Through College Credit Plus, the new program that replaced the Post-Secondary Enrollment Options Program, students have a chance to earn as many as 30 credits for free while still in high school.
That’s a full year of college, Rogers said in an interview Monday.
Rogers said participation in the new program is up from what it was in PSEOP.
The plan also emphasizes students planning what they will study. “One immediate way they can start to save dollars is getting students to focus earlier on their career goals,” Rogers said.
This saves students from taking extra courses they may not need, he said.
However, as with everything in the plan, this is not a requirement. “We’re not forcing them into a path, but we’re making sure they are well informed about the choices and the impact that has on the cost of their education.”
BGSU has instituted a new one-credit course, the Deciding Student Program. Aimed at freshmen still considering their options, it provides some testing to determine interests and aptitudes as well as information on what various majors involve in terms of academic expectations.
The plan also has ways that upper classmen can save dollars when they face financial challenges, he said. That includes saving on textbooks. The university now has some on reserve at Jerome Library, or they can be leased rather than purchased, Rogers told trustees in September.
The plan also suggests students consider starting their education at a less expensive, two-year school. That could be BGSU’s Firelands campus or a community college. “The costs of tuition is clearly less and those credits transfer in,” Rogers said.
Rogers said the number of transfer students is up, though he said he’s not sure if that’s a result of financial reasons or because of the university making transferring easier.
Again that’s not for all students. “For some students, community college doesn’t provide as robust an array of opportunities,” Rogers said.
Another option, for non-traditional students, is the opportunity to receive credit for other kinds of training and education either by testing, for up to 15 credits, or by a portfolio review, up to 30 credits.
BGSU is also considering some new initiatives.
One would be a tuition plan where a student can pay a price for a remedial or “gateway” course and stay in that course until they have successfully completed it, Rogers explained.
The university is also considering lowering the price of summer session credits as a way of encouraging students to take courses then, to either stay on track toward graduation or accelerate their progress.
The university “is still looking at as many ways as we can to reduce our overall costs to make sure we’re delivering a great value to our students,” he said.
“We’re giving students the support to move through the curriculum in an appropriate way in which they can complete a degree as efficiently as possible,” Rogers said, “but insuring we provide them with a degree that will serve them serve them for life.”