As Ohio trails nation in college attainment, new report lays out plan for equitable, free college
Posted October 18, 2018 in Press Releases
Ohio ranks below average in share of adults with at least an associate degree and is among the least affordable states for college. Policy Matters Ohio today released a new plan for equitable, free college to address these related problems.
The state aims for 65 percent of adults to hold at least an associate degree by 2025. With seven years to go, only 39 percent of Ohioans hold any advanced degree, compared to 42 percent nationally.
Ohio ranks 45thleast affordable for college. In total, Ohioans hold $57 billion in student loan debt. Costs rise as public investment falls and Ohio spent 15 percent less per college student in 2017 than in 2008 – $1,073 in today’s dollars. State support for need-based aid fell from $223 million in 2008 to $99 million in 2018.
Ohioans pursuing public service careers are at a particular disadvantage. Careers like teaching and social work often pay modestly, and students often rack up high debt. This week, news broke that the U.S. Department of Education’s public service loan forgiveness program, which helps people in public service careers pay off student debt, has been failing borrowers – turning down 99 percent of applications, in part because of the failures of predatory loan servicers.
Ohio needs to help more people afford higher education. Nineteen states have free college promise programs. Promise plans commit to provide free or debt-free tuition to qualifying students, often restricted to recent high school graduates and based on GPA. Low-income students, students of color and older students are often excluded.
Structural discrimination makes it harder for people of color to secure good-paying jobs and afford tuition. Forty percent of white Ohioans hold a college degree compared to 26.5 percent of African Americans, 26.9 percent of Latinx Ohioans and 31.7 percent of Native Americans.
“We’ve been cutting taxes for the wealthiest for years at the expense of our public colleges and need-based aid,” said report author, Policy Matters researcher Victoria Jackson. “An Ohio Promise plan for equitable free college will prepare more Ohioans to meet future challenges.
Policy Matters proposes The Ohio Promise that does the following:
- Provides first-dollar grant for tuition and fees, meaning Promise Grant will pay for tuition and fees and the Pell Grant and OCOG can be used for books and living expenses
- Provide students attending community colleges and regional campuses with the same amount of OCOG as students at public universities
- Provide aid to recent high school graduates, returning students and older adults
- Provide aid to moderate-income students at community colleges and public universities
- Make full- and part-time students eligible
- Eliminate GPA and ACT/SAT requirements – let admissions offices set standards
- Guarantee that this is a grant, never a loan