Katie Sallach, For The Miami Student

The United States Department of Education has started posting online net costs of universities across the country, and Miami University sits at the top of the public university list with a net cost of $22,303.

However, according to Vice President for Finance and Business Services David Creamer there are a lot of factors that contribute to Miami’s seemingly high net cost.

Creamer said the first thing to remember is that net cost includes the average total cost of living and attending Miami with the average financial aid subtracted. This includes the average cost of books, travel, entertainment, room and board as well as other costs.

According to Creamer, Miami is a highly residential campus compared to other universities. Since more students live on campus at Miami than at other schools, residential costs are often higher at Miami than at schools with fewer students living on campus.

First year Sarah Ross said since Miami requires all students to live on campus until at least their second year it creates additional unnecessary costs.

“I know that many universities do not require students to live on campus past their freshman year,” Ross said. “I wish this was the case at Miami, since many off campus living options are less expensive than dorms.”

Net cost also includes an estimation of costs for other expenses such as transportation and entertainment, which, according to Associate Director of University Communications Claire Wagner, Miami estimates very high as courtesy for parents and students so they can plan more effectively for costs.

Miami estimated for the 2011-2012 school year the average cost for other expenses is $6,743, higher than the actual average, affecting the calculation of total net cost for Miami.

Another factor to consider when looking at Miami’s ranking is the amount of state funding for Ohio schools. Ohio’s state legislatures decided a long time ago that the amount of state supported funding for schools would be low. Ohio’s state funding for schools is well behind other states, with funding consistently in the lower 10 percent, according to Creamer.

Economics Professor James Brock said he thinks there are other more fixable reasons for why the net cost at Miami is so high.

“I also think, however, that we have a burgeoning and costly mass of bureaucracy exploding between the faculty and the students we teach,” Brock said. “Just look at the trend here over the past decade or so, when the number of full time administrative positions has increased at a percentage rate many times greater than the single digit percentage increase in the number of faculty.”

According to Brock, another reason Miami’s net cost is so high is because of the ineffective way Miami hires and pays teachers.

“Another key driver of costs is that we’re paying faculty more but requiring them to teach fewer courses, and then hiring visiting instructors to teach the classes the tenure-track faculty aren’t teaching, effectively requiring the students to pay twice for teaching,” Brock said.

Both Creamer and Wagner agree the value of Miami is also a significant reason why Miami has the highest net cost of public schools.

“Even though we are ranked as the highest net cost, we also keep getting ranked as having a good value,” Wagner said. “Our students are known for graduating on time, and a lot of our money goes towards instruction and student support.”

According to Creamer, at schools with lower net costs you will find larger class sizes, more part time faculty and fewer activities when compared to Miami.

Creamer said the great value Miami has to offer will keep students and parents interested in Miami regardless of its ranking of highest net cost.

“I think that most families are evaluating schools more holistically, and are looking at the value of schools in addition to the cost,” Creamer said.

Wagner agreed while the ranking may deter some students from applying to Miami, she hopes most families will be able to look past the cost.

“I think it will cause students and parents to dig deeper as they’re looking into Miami, and consider the value instead of just the cost,” Wagner said.

Sophomore Audrey Altieri said the quality of Miami is worth the cost.

“I think that when people first see this ranking they might be a little skeptical of Miami, but there are a lot of factors that go into that ranking that also make Miami a better school than ones that are cutting too far back on costs,” Altieri said.

Other students are not so accepting of Miami’s increasing expenses. Miami junior Wendy Swartz said she thinks Miami should increase its amount of scholarship and financial aid money.

“I feel like its very unfair,” Swartz said. “I don’t come from the typical Miami family income and even though my grades are good, I attend class daily and study, even more scholarship and grant requirements are becoming ridiculous and its getting harder to access them at Miami. I just want the same opportunities for myself as everyone else.”

Ross agreed more financial assistance would be helpful.

“I also wish that they offered more scholarship opportunities for transfer students and current students,” Ross said.

According to Creamer, the ranking can also be somewhat misleading when it comes to cost increase in public schools. While Miami currently has the highest net cost of public schools, the university has actually frozen tuition for the past two years while other public schools across the country, including Pennsylvania State University, West Virginia University, Michigan State University and Washington State University continue to increase their tuition.

According to tuition data provided by Creamer of multiple schools from the 2006-2007 school year in comparison to this school year, prior to being frozen for the past two years, Miami’s tuition increased by $1,243. However, the data also shows even though Ohio state funding has decreased for all public schools, Ohio State University increased their tuition by $1,058 and Ohio University had a $1,209 increase since the 2006-2007 school year.

According to Creamer, even though Miami is at the top of the list for net cost in public schools, Miami was already cutting costs in areas they thought would least impact students in order to keep the tuition the same but improve the quality of education.

Even though the university has already been taking steps just to keep the tuition frozen, Creamer said the university will be working on even more ways to try to decrease the net cost.

“We have announced that we would like to raise the amount of scholarship dollars through the alumni, and we try to target areas that will have the least amount of impact on students when trying to reduce costs,” Creamer said.

In 1998, The Miami Student reported the percentage of Miami University students earning undergraduate degrees within five years was 77 percent, the lowest level in six years. The Student reported this rate correlated to a study released by the American College Testing Program that stated this rate was at an all-time low nationwide.