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UC’s total cost of attendance drops below 2015 levels

Despite inflation, UC has frozen tuition since 2015 – while also implementing strategies to reduce textbook costs. The end result: Today’s in-state, undergrad education actually costs less than four years ago.

The University of Cincinnati’s May 2019 commencement was one for the record books. It marked the biggest graduating class in university history, with more than 6,600 degrees conferred.

It also marked another important milestone for graduating students and their families.

Thanks to year-upon-year frozen tuition since 2015 (the entering year for these graduates) and a comprehensive campaign to reduce costs for books, UC’s total cost of attendance for in-state undergrads on the Uptown campus is actually down from where it stood in 2015 when these students entered.

UC’s 2018-19 total cost of attendance for in-state undergrads (Uptown campus) stands at $27,476, nearly $200 less than the 2015 figure of $27,674. 

  • Total Cost of Attendance: A downward trajectory
  • Scholarships and co-op earnings: $150 million annually
  • Frozen tuition for current students
  • Textbook savings: $4.5 million since 2015
  • A look forward: Tuition Guarantee
  • State and national trends

DIPLOMAS AND DOLLARS SAVED: Total Cost of Attendance
Total cost of attendance is just that. It includes everything from tuition to toothpaste – tuitions, fees, room and board, books, transportation, food and miscellaneous needs. It’s a figure that all universities track and post in order to help families plan regarding educational costs before taking into account various forms of need- or merit-based aid, loans, savings and/or earnings that are often available to defray educational costs.

In 2015, UC’s in-state, undergraduate Total Cost of Attendance on the Uptown campus stood at $27,674. During the current academic year, it stands at $27,476. This despite rising inflation rate and consumer costs overall during that same time period. Over the past five years, inflation and corresponding increases in consumer cost have risen an average of nearly 2 percent annually.  

Notably, UC’s Total Cost of Attendance is less than many counterparts such as Miami University of Ohio ($33,229), University of Michigan at Ann Arbor ($30,298), University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign ($30,102), and Ohio University ($28,986).

A UC graphic with the headline "Four years of freezing Tuition" shows the zero percent increase in tuition in each of 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

To help cover this Total Cost of Attendance, students and their families can apply scholarships, grants, work study and other forms of financial aid along with any loans or earnings. The university provides more than $84 million annually to undergraduates in the form of institutional merit-, talent- and need-based aid and scholarships. When this institutional aid (provided directly from the university) is combined with federal, state and private support, UC administers nearly $500 million in aid to  students.

At UC, opportunities for students to earn while they learn – ‘hire learning’ as it’s sometimes called – are   integrated into their academic coursework thanks to the university’s nationally Top-20 ranked cooperative education program. Each year, UC students earn a collective $66 million thanks to alternating academic semesters with professionally paid work semesters tied to their majors --   employed locally, regionally, across the nation and even internationally.

In all, UC is among the 300 national universities to makes Forbes’ recent 2019 Best Value Colleges list.

A graphic shows the percentage change in average tuition at four-year colleges adjusted for inflation from 2008 to 2018 by state. Ohio ranks 1st at 5 percent. Louisiana ranks last at 105 percent.

University of Cincinnati students earn more than $66 million per year working co-op jobs. Photo/Corrie Stookey/CEAS

Keeping affordability and accessibility top of mind, UC froze tuition for the undergraduate class that entered in 2015. As such, that class – which just graduated in May – never experienced a tuition increase while UC students. And even in the years prior to the entry of that fall 2015 class, the university similarly froze tuition in 2010 and 2014.

This tuition freeze contributed to the decline in Total Cost of Attendance for in-state undergraduates, and has won support from students and parents alike.

Alumna Sheila Jackson-Conley, the parent of a UC student and of a student in high school, stated, “I am the single parent of a first-year DAAP student. My desire for my children is that they will obtain a solid education from competitive institutions at an affordable rate without incurring debt. Scholarships, grants and tuition freezes are blessings in our lives which help to close the gaps which are present in our pursuits of education at every level and allow us to plan for our futures freely.”

A student sits on a bench reading a book.

Since 2015, it’s estimated that UC students have saved a total of $4.5 million thanks to the university’s comprehensive Textbook Affordability Initiative, conducted in partnership with the Ohio Department of Higher Education. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

While holding down tuition costs have played a role in the decline of Total Cost of Attendance, another factor is UC’s multi-year, multi-faceted approach to reducing the cost of books and learning materials for students.

Since 2015, it’s estimated that UC students have saved a total of $4.5 million thanks to the university’s comprehensive Textbook Affordability Initiative, conducted in partnership with the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

The initiative includes tactics like

  • Leveraging the university’s bulk purchasing power to negotiate overall lower prices for students
  • Increasing access to digital content (which is less expensive than print production of materials)
  • UC Bookstore price matching for students if they find a less expensive book or class material options at another vendor
  • Options to rent (vs. buy) course texts and more.
Two people in labcoats stand over an array of mirrors and laser equipment.

UC physics professor Hans-Peter Wagner and his student discuss an experiment they designed using lasers in his optics laboratory. UC is a Carnegie-1 research institution where students get hands-on experience in their field of study. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services.

UC will continue to focus on stability and certainty around educational costs thanks to the new Tuition Guarantee program on behalf of incoming, first-year, degree-seeking undergraduates who will begin their college careers at UC this fall. (Current students are not impacted by the program.)

The incoming, undergraduate class is now guaranteed a set, established amount for base tuition and some other fees (like room and board). This means that this new class will never know an increase in base tuition when completing four- or five-year degrees. (Some undergraduate programs at UC require five years for completion due to the university’s celebrated cooperative education program, by which professional work experience is integrated into students’ academic studies – and thereby earning students a collective $66 million annually.)

This program is offered in cooperation with Ohio’s leadership, as Governor Mike DeWine requested that all four-year higher education institutions provide the program. He stated, “Students at UC will now have predictability, meaning students will lock in their tuition rate their freshman year, allowing them to better plan for their futures. I believe families with students at all of Ohio’s public universities should be able to rely on tuition guarantees, making higher education more accessible and ensuring more student can pursue their dreams.”

Randy Gardner, chancellor of Ohio’s Department of Higher Education, agreed, stating, “I’m glad that UC has joined the family of universities in Ohio that participate in the strongest, pro-student tuition guarantee program in America. Students and their families can now plan for their education futures without concern for unpredictable tuition rates.”

The Tuition Guarantee program means that undergraduate, in-state tuition on the Uptown Campus for first year students only may rise from $11,000 annually to $11,660 (the exact amount to be set at the next UC Board of Trustees meeting). If approved, the $4 million in revenue derived from the expected tuition differential for incoming, first-year students and transfers entering the university in fall 2019 will be evenly divided, with most of the funds going towards scholarships. One third would go to need-based scholarships, one third to merit-based scholarships and one third to academic initiatives.

For current/continuing undergraduate students, the in-state annual tuition rate will be also be finalized at the next Board of Trustees meeting June 25. If frozen for the fifth year in a row at the current fall 2015 rates, then in-state, undergraduate tuition on UC’s Uptown Campus would remain flat at $11,000 annually.

A line graph shows the percentage change in average tuition by state at four-year colleges adjusted for inflation from 2008 to 2018. Ohio ranks 1st at 5 percent. Louisiana ranks last at 105 percent.

Ohio has led the nation on holding down tuition costs, boasting the lowest average rate of tuition growth for public universities among all states. Graphic/Inter-University Council of Ohio

UC is a leader in Ohio and nationally in holding down tuition growth. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Ohio leads the nation in holding down tuition costs, and UC is contributing to that effort.

Between 2008 and 2018, many states saw double- and even triple-figure increases in tuition costs. For example, Louisiana saw a more than 100 percent increase in average tuition at public, four-year colleges. In Kentucky, that figures stands at 38.8 percent, and in Indiana, 15.2 percent. Ohio has led the nation on holding down tuition costs, boasting the lowest average rate of tuition growth for public universities among all states. The inflation-adjusted tuition rates in Ohio have risen 5 percent.

 “UC’s diligence in holding the line on tuition since Fall 2015 is a sign of our commitment to access and affordability as a public university. With students and families in mind, our university has worked hard to find efficiencies and creative ways to reduce costs for our students,” said President Neville Pinto.

Three students in caps and gowns smile during commencement.

UC students at commencement. Photo/Andrew Higley/UC Creative Services

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