The University of Akron in Ohio had a 2015-2016 budget which included $10 million in increased fees to assist in resolving a "$60 million fiscal challenge" the school is correcting through the use of a three-year plan. The strategy included a raise in facilities fees which students who take classes on the main campus would be required to pay — and now those fees will be refunded.
Rachel Abbey McCafferty, reporting for Crain's Cleveland Business, says the additional charges occurred during the time that the state implemented a two-year budget that fundamentally froze tuition and general fees for state colleges and universities.
A news release posted by the university said that Ohio officials had decided, after they had completed an annual review of the school's expenses, that facility fees are the same as a general fee charge. That meant the additional cost was a part of the state's cap on fees. The cap was put in place after the university passed its budget in June.
Students, before the 2015-2016 budget was passed, had been required to pay $18.55 per credit hour each semester for 12 credit hours or less or a maximum of $222.60. The new charges, had they taken place, would have been $28.50 per credit hour each semester for up to 12 credit hours, maxing out at $342.
The increase would have netted the school $4.1 million, but now students will be refunded in one way or another by the end of this semester. The amount will differ among students depending on how their fee was paid and the number of credit hours for which each student had registered.
On the University of Akron website, the school explained that the $10 million, which was to be supplied by the increased facility fees, was to be used to pay debt service charges on bonds issued for construction of services facilities for students.
These facilities include such locations as the InfoCision Stadium, the recreation center, and the student union.
The refunds will max out at $238.80 per undergraduate and graduate student for two semesters.
The Plain Dealer's Karen Farkas quoted a member of the school's administrative team:
"We are working on it," said spokesman Wayne Hill about finding the funds to balance the budget. "It is part of reviewing the budget and determining how to handle it."
The university was not aware of the fact that the facilities fee qualified as a general fee, write Rick Armon and Marilyn Miller for the Akron Beacon Journal.
Jeff Robinson, a spokesperson for the Ohio Department of Higher Education, added that UA was the only public university facing this issue. The university could have refused to comply with the state freeze, but cooperated with the state instead.
"We appreciate the University of Akron's cooperation on this matter," said Robinson.
Last year, however, UA considered charging a $50 per credit hour fee on higher-level courses. After fielding criticism from students and leaders in the state, the school dropped the charge.
Critics said it appeared the university was attempting to dodge the state freeze. The administration dealt with the negative input by cutting $40 million through dropping 200 positions and eliminating the school's baseball team.
The university's website reports that the University of Akron is Ohio's Polytechnic University and the most prominent public research university in the region. The school has a student body of 26,000 and over 300 associate, bachelor's, master's, doctorate, and law degree programs.
Polytechnic schools include active classroom learning and in-the-field opportunities to enhance and develop students into graduates who are well-qualified intellectually and physically. UA learners are provided with studies in the arts and humanities as well as science, and technology.