Jacob Zalac, For The Miami Student

Former Miami University president James Garland called Miami University “public in name only,” in his book, “Saving Alma Mater,” published in 2009. In his book, he argued that public universities should be autonomous and deregulated by their states. 

Miami University in fact, does receive partial funding from the state, classifying it as a public university, however, Garland said he found it was not often perceived as one.

 “I have talked to people from outside of Ohio that are genuinely stunned to find out that Miami is a public institution,” Garland said. 

The problem lies in the categorization of a school as public or private, Miami’s director of Student Financial Assistance, Brent Shock said. This leads to the issue of accessibility of the university to prospective students requiring financial aid, who are under the assumption that private institutions tend to have exceptionally higher tuition rates. 

 Less than ten percent of this year’s budget came from state funding, according to vice president and treasurer of Financial and Business Services, David Creamer.  Public funding is a key characteristic of a public university.  However, this public funding has not been prevalent enough to solidify the perception of Miami as a public school.

He emphasized this as one of the main characteristics that lead to the perception that Miami is a private institution.

“Although Miami maintains steady attendance rates which are mainly derived from our marginal value of return on investment, expensive tuition tends to be generally accepted indicator of a private school,” Garland said. 

A student can qualify for financial aid depending not only on his household income, but also the size of the household and how many of the household are enrolled in college.  According to Shock, the most recent data shows that out of students at all campuses, 24 percent qualify for the Federal Pell Grant.  Shock added how there is no limit to the amount of students Miami accepts that require financial aid.

Similarly, the ratio of out-of-state to in-state students at Miami is significantly higher than that of public universities.  According to data collected from CollegeXpress, Miami’s student base consists of 32 percent out-of-state students, whereas Ohio State University comes in at only 12 percent.  

In regards to this, Garland conveyed that this accumulation of out-of-state students has had the effect of increasing market strength in offering of financial aid to low-income and out-of-state students. This is due to the state taking into account the marginal return on investments. 

“The market strength Miami has built up allows us to appeal to low-income students and out-of-state students that pay a significantly higher tuition.  Reason being that they see an opportunity for return on investment in Miami,” Garland said. 

Garland also outlined a more tangible quality about Miami that makes it similar to private schools. 

The consistency of Miami’s architecture across campus, with each building designed with similar features in the same color of red brick, is a quality similar to many well-known private universities, Garland said. Such similarities can be seen in the consistency of the buildings at schools such as Harvard University, one of many schools to incorporate the Collegiate Gothic architectural style throughout the 19th and
20th centuries. 

Sophomore Joe Hendy said he notices the private-school feel of Miami.

 “Having gone to a private high school, I recognize the feel of a school being private,” Hendy said. “Even though I realize that we’re a public institution, I completely get the perception of Miami being private.”

He said he attributes the private-school atmosphere to lack of diversity. 

 “There’s such a lack of student diversification that you’d normally find at a bigger public school,” he said.