Ohio University announced Monday the creation of “Ohio Guarantee+,” which expands on the previous tuition guarantee and should ensure a new level of cost transparency and affordability.

There are three guarantees with the new program: fixed tuition and fees, expanded lifelong benefits and scholarships and a personalized graduation plan “with a commitment to make it right” if the university “fails to deliver” on its promise, according to an OU news release.

The fixed tuition and fees are the same as the current guarantee, but the lifelong benefits and personalized plan are new. OU was the first university in the state to implement a tuition and fee program in 2015, according to the news release.

Under the new program, OU will work with students to design a path toward graduation. This is so students and the university have a mutual agreement about what is expected. It includes how long the program will last as well as how much it would cost.

If the university fails to offer classes or does not fulfill the requirements, OU will attempt to make it right with course substitutions or covering tuition and fees for any required courses.

The plan also works to refocus some of the existing resources to fill any gaps, Elizabeth Sayrs, senior vice provost for undergraduate education and student success and dean of University College, said.

The plan will also be flexible around people who are nontraditional students, Robin Oliver, vice president for university communications and marketing, said.

Students who come into OU with college credits and want to graduate early will be accommodated for, as well as students with children.

The fixed tuition and fees and lifelong benefits are immediately available to students and alumni. The plan will be rolled out over the next three years. 

The first “OHIO+ Guarantee Graduation Plan” cohort will be students entering into 17 undergraduate majors across six colleges as well as undecided majors, according to the news release.

All majors in the College of Business have volunteered for the first phase, Jennifer Murphy, assistant dean for career and student success, said. Studio art, psychology, communication studies, engineering technology and management; music education and exercise physiology have also volunteered. Undecided students can also opt into the program.

There are no cost estimates yet as the program is at the department level, Sayrs said.

Murphy said all students in the College of Business have touchpoints throughout the semester from the start of students’ freshman year until graduation. 

Sayrs said the College of Business’ graduation rate improved by 8% and the retention rate improved by over 3.5% between the 2014 and 2015 academic years.

The graduation plans include career and leadership coaching and co-curricular opportunities to ensure students are “career-ready” when they graduate.

“We commit to working with a student to building a pathway that is going to get them to where they want their goals to be,” Murphy said.

Phases two and three will add the rest of the majors that are not yet in the program. Phase three, which will occur in Fall Semester 2022, will see all undergraduate programs, Oliver said.

Sayrs said other universities’ programs were looked at, but the new guarantee is different from any other university. Although, Florida State University and Temple University have really good examples of curricular maps, she said.

“We are committed to doing everything we can at Ohio University to help our students succeed in their academic pursuits,” OU President Duane Nellis said in the news release.

The “OHIO Guarantee+” also includes access to scholarships for alumni who decide to return to OU for an advanced degree. The award amounts and criteria will differ by program and specifics will be released in the spring of 2020.