For the first time in five years, Otterbein University's board of trustees voted to increase tuition costs for students, effective in the fall of 2019.

The board approved the $600 per year increase at a meeting on Oct. 20. The board also approved a room and board cost increase by 2 percent, or $210 per year. 

Peter Bible, chairman of the financial resources committee, said the university's increasing deficit is one of the reasons why the tuition increases are happening now. 

"The university has been operating at a loss for a substantial amount of time, and where that’s been funded from is the endowment," said Bible. "That is not a sustainable model, and not that the $600 [tuition increase] is going to fix that, but it’s a step in the right direction."

          

The decision to raise costs was a cooperative effort between board members, which includes student trustees.

Kaitlyn Brooks, a junior marketing and management double major, and Rebekah Perry, a zoo and conservation science major, are student trustees for the academic year. Both Brooks and Perry said they were asked for their opinions while negotiating increased student costs.

"This was my first board meeting [as a student trustee], but they definitely really valued my opinion," said Brooks.

          

Despite the new expenses, the board decided to cut out an additional student life fee. 

In January of 2018, Otterbein University Student Government voted to approve a facility fee of about $125 per semester to help fund the campus center renovation project. According to Bible, that fee no longer exists and is included in the new tuition cost. 

The removal of the campus center fee was proposed by the university president, John Comerford. Comerford said he does not like the implications of fees and wants to be more transparent about what the university tells students they're paying for.

"I fundamentally believe that fees are perceived by students and families as 'gotcha-like'," said Comerford. "We have a couple of fees, like the student life fee and the IT fee, and soon we would have a campus center fee, and I'd rather call it tuition."

According to Comerford, distributing part of the tuition to the campus center renovation project will begin once construction starts. The exact amount of tuition going into the renovation project is unknown at this time.

Brittany Katona, a sophomore education major, said, "I think it's good that they aren't adding more to the $600 fee, but if I'm still paying for it [the campus center], I would hope it would get done before I graduate, so I'd still have at least a year to use it."

In addition to budget information, the art department presented the board with information about the department's art history degree, which just started this year. The degree is for students interested in museum careers and institutional research.

The board is also leading search committees for a new chief financial officer (CFO) and a new provost. Comerford said he hopes to have the CFO position filled by February and provost candidates by the end of the semester.

The next board of trustees meeting will take place on Feb. 9, 2019.