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Panel backs caps on Indiana college tuition hikes

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) Indiana's higher education commission on Friday approved recommendations that the state's public universities keep their tuition increases under caps of 2.5 percent to 3.5 percent in each of the next two years.

The universities aren't required to follow the recommendations on tuition for in-state students, but objections to hikes in recent years prompted legislators this spring to consider implementing a tuition freeze as part of the new state budget.

The Commission for Higher Education voted unanimously to approve the tuition caps during its meeting at the Indiana University Kokomo campus, spokesman Jason Bearce said.

The highest recommended tuition increases of 3.5 percent for in-state students are for the main campuses of Indiana University and Purdue University. The lowest caps of 2.5 percent are recommended for Indiana State University, Vincennes University and the regional campuses of Purdue and IU.

"The bottom line is we are very concerned that we do not price people out of their opportunity for a middle-class life in Indiana," Teresa Lubbers, the state's higher education commissioner, told The Indianapolis Star. "College costs cannot continue to increase at the present rate."

Lubbers said lower increases were recommended for campuses with high numbers of low- income students who are most sensitive to tuition increases.

Purdue President France Cordova, who has been outspoken in her criticism of previous state cuts to higher education, has maintained college campuses can't sacrifice quality in education.

"We have worked diligently over the past year to cut costs and find efficiencies while striving to sustain and build the quality of a Purdue education and generate the knowledge necessary for the future of our state," Cordova said in a statement.

Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Luke Kenley, R-Noblesville, said he hoped college officials have been getting the message that families can't take another big increase.

"I strongly support the commission and its recommendations," Kenley said Thursday. "Universities should try to live with certain restraints in these economic times. And I hope they are not tempted to go beyond (the caps)."

Asked what he might do if they don't, Kenley replied, "That depends on how much the 'don't' is."

With the panel's adoption of the recommendations, the universities will begin to release their actual tuition increases.

"We feel the recommendations strike a really good balance between operational needs and concerns of institutions," Lubbers said. "But the priority for us is that students have an opportunity to go to college and compete."




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