Charlie Turner

Despite a press release issued Monday, Nov. 24, Miami University, is not, as the release claimed, the “most affordable public college in Ohio.”

In fact, it’s among the least affordable, according to Administrative Director of the Center for College Affordability and Productivity (CCAP) Daniel Bennett.

The CCAP study reported that Miami students graduate with particularly high levels of debt when compared with other public schools.

“Miami has one of the higher average debt levels among public schools in not only the state, but also the nation,” Bennett said. “This would, in fact, make it one of the least affordable.”

The original release, put out Nov. 24 and taken down just over a week later, claimed Miami was the most affordable public college in Ohio and the 33rd most affordable in the country.

According to Claire Wagner, associate director of University Communications, the writer of the original press release had looked at a ranking of overall quality among public universities and had mistaken it for a ranking of affordability.

In another CCAP report, Miami was ranked as having the highest net tuition among any public college in the nation; however, that statistic was found to be artificially inflated due to Miami’s unique way of handling tuition costs, according to Wagner and Bennett.

Net tuition is in-state tuition minus the average aid students receive. For all other universities, this calculation works because in-state and out-of-state students are charged different amounts of tuition.

However, Miami charges all students-in-state and out-of-state-the same tuition, with automatic scholarships for Ohio residents. After subtracting the average aid from tuition-including Ohio Resident and Ohio Leadership Scholarship-the net tuition figure for Miami becomes artificially inflated.

“So Miami is basically saying that they jacked up the tuition for in-state students but they offset that with these institutional grants,” said Andy Gillen, research director at CCAP.

Wagner said that these kinds of ballooned statistics have been a problem in the past as well.

“I call them and I let them know that it’s confusing, but that no in-state student has ever paid more than x number of dollars,” Wagner said.

According to Wagner, Miami’s unique way of handling tuition allows the university to vary the automatic scholarships and charge in-state students less if they come from low income families or major in subjects key to the state’s economic development.

“When (former university president) Dr. Garland decided to do this, it was to address the need to offer a bit of a sliding scale for Ohio families,” Wagner said. “So now we can still do that, but we are reporting the highest in-state tuition.”