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Union Education Trustees are stepping up to meet the rising cost of attending college. Expensive mandatory fees have kept eligible bargaining unit members from continuing their education. These often-hidden costs are in addition to tuition but must be paid to take classes (think “technology fee,” “library fee,” or “instructional fee,” but they go by many different names). Beginning August 1, UET’s Career Improvement Program (CIP) will pay for mandatory fees in addition to tuition costs.
“OCSEA/UET’s mission is to empower the members,” OCSEA President and UET Chair Christopher M. Mabe said. “We’re there to support the members in their education goals and career goals.”
Including covering mandatory fees in addition to tuition under CIP is the latest way UET is making sure that members can overcome hurdles to continuing their education. It is a timely enhancement to Article 37 bargained by OCSEA to give members the opportunity to be lifelong learners and therefore achieve their career goals and improve their quality of life.
College tuition has skyrocketed in the last decades. Forbes contributing writer Steve Odland explained in his March 24, 2012 article that “college costs have risen much faster than average inflation for decades, so this isn’t a short-term phenomenon.” He wrote that the college education inflation rate has risen nearly 500% in about 30 years.
Ohio has been part of that trend: a study ranked the state 45th out of 50 states in college affordability. According to a July 10, 2017 Toledo Blade article, “Between 1996 and 2006, Ohio’s universities hiked tuition by about 9 percent a year, leaving Ohio public college students with tuitions that were 47 percent higher than the national average.” Simply put, it costs more to attend college in Ohio than most other states.
The Ohio Legislature responded several years ago by freezing tuition at public universities, while reducing funds earmarked for higher education. This tuition freeze was maintained in the 2017 budget for the next two years.
Fees have become a new way colleges and universities generate funds without raising tuition. The NYTimes quoted Seton Hall Assistant Professor Robert Kelchen in a Nov. 3, 2016 article: “Since 1999, mandatory fees have risen 30 percent more than tuition has.” The average fee at four-year public colleges is more than $1,500.
There are two types of fees a school might charge: mandatory fees and optional fees. Mandatory fees are required of all students to receive instruction. Optional fees can be declined by the student and aren’t related to instruction. UET’s CIP offers up to $3,500 per fiscal year of financial assistance for college-credit courses and vocational training and specialty education. UET will pay mandatory fees, but not optional fees.
“Expanding CIP to pay mandatory fees is UET responding to the evolving needs of members to go to school,” Mabe said. “These fees were prohibiting members from continuing their education.”
This new policy will take effect for classes starting August 1, 2017. The CIP application has been updated to include a blank for the applicant to include the mandatory fee cost. The new online application will be available August 1 to enroll for fall classes. If members have received a voucher for classes starting August 1, 2017, they have two options:
Option 1 - Write “void” on the current voucher and submit it to UET; then reapply after August 1, 2017 for a new voucher to include mandatory fees.
Option 2 - Use the current voucher and if members wish to apply for mandatory fees not covered by the current voucher then complete a request for reimbursement.
Members with any questions about identifying mandatory fees should talk with their school counselors. For questions about the application or the application process, contact the UET at 1-866-436-7900 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Unlike these fees, there is nothing hidden or confusing about the UET application — it’s one page and members simply write down what school and class they will be attending,” Mabe said. “UET makes furthering your education and career potential simple and accessible.”
The UET Trustees are committed to providing eligible members with the financial help to achieve their career goals and improving their quality of life.