BGSU board approves 2016-17 budget pending state bill

The BGSU Board of Trustees approved educational and operating budgets for the University at its meeting June 18, with the understanding that some revisions may be necessary when Ohio's biennium budget is finalized by the state legislature and approved by the governor later this month.

"We share legislators' concerns about the rising cost of higher education and are focused on controlling expenses and increasing efficiencies," said BGSU President Mary Ellen Mazey. "We're working hard to ensure that a BGSU education remains a great value that is within reach of Ohio's families."

The board approved total overall University expenditures of $403 million, of which $12.86 million is for BGSU Firelands.

After no increases in tuition, general fees, and room and board last year, the University's budget as approved is based on Gov. John Kasich's presented budget. The governor's budget calls for a maximum 2 percent in-state undergraduate tuition and fees increase in fiscal year 2016 and no increase in the 2017 fiscal year.

The Senate budget bill version calls for a freeze on in-state undergraduate tuition and fee increases; it may provide additional funding for higher education.

Based on these uncertain circumstances, BGSU trustees contingently approved a 2 percent increase to in-state undergraduate tuition and general fees for all campuses. BGSU officials acknowledged that it seems highly unlikely at this point that a tuition increase will ultimately be permitted by the final, approved state budget bill.

"Approval of the in-state tuition and fee increases provides needed funding should it be permissible," said CFO Sheri Stoll, noting that the University is required by law to have a balanced budget in place by June 30.

The same rates were approved for distance-learning and eCampus courses. The total cost for a full-time, in-state undergraduate would rise from $5,295 in FY 2015 to $5,400 in FY 2016, an increase of $105 per semester.

No increase was proposed for graduate in-state instructional fees, but for the first time in more than 10 years the out-of-state surcharge for undergraduates and graduates will increase by 2.95 percent. The increase will bring BGSU closer to the middle of Ohio public universities for total costs of tuition and fees for out-of-state undergraduate and graduate students.

For BGSU Firelands in-state undergraduates, trustees also contingently approved a 2 percent increase in tuition and fees. The total for in-state undergraduates at Firelands would go from $2,465 in FY 2015 to $2,514 in FY 2016, an increase of $49.20 per semester.

BGSU faced a challenge in presenting a budget due to an overlap in timing of the board's meeting and the work of the Ohio Legislature, Stoll said. Because of this overlap, the trustees had to act without the benefit of knowing the final outcome of the state's budget deliberations. The board made its budget decision aware that is doubtful an in-state tuition increase will be permitted, and without knowing the final amount of State Support for Instruction it will receive. Thus, its decision will be contingent upon the state's eventual action and may need to be modified.

Budget priorities for both campuses were mainly limited to funding salaries, benefits and a small increase in operating expenses due to the state's new College Credit Plus program for junior and senior high school students taking college courses for credit.

In salary action, the collective bargaining agreement between the University and the Faculty Association called for a 3.75 percent salary pool, with a 1 percent across-the-board, 1 percent merit, 1 percent fixed-market and 0.75 percent market pool. In addition, a 2 percent compensation pool was approved for all other employee groups.