Governor Might Cut Grants
Ohio residents take note: next year you may be paying $900 more for your Oberlin education under a budget proposal introduced by Governor Ted Strickland last month. The proposal limits Ohio Student Choice Grants — approximately $900-per-year grants currently available to Ohio residents attending private colleges in-state — to students with financial need. The new limit is expected to yield nearly $36 million in savings, money that Strickland says he will use to increase funding for other need-based financial aid programs.
The Student Choice Grant program was originally created as an incentive to keep prospective private college students from leaving the state. The total amount disbursed to each student eligible for the grant fluctuates slightly each year, as demand changes. Last year, the grant provided around $900 in aid to students. Nine percent of Oberlin students are from Ohio.
According to the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Strickland’s proposal will require that a student’s family make less than $75,000 annually before he or she is eligible for the grant. This will reduce the program’s expenditures by over 60 percent, according to a Strickland administration estimate. If passed, this cut is expected to take effect in the academic year beginning fall 2008. It is still unclear how the savings will be appropriated.
Director of Financial Aid Rob Reddy said that the Governor’s proposal will have the most impact on Oberlin students not receiving need-based financial aid: “[Oberlin’s] commitment to meeting need means we...just as an institution...are going to shoulder the burden of the decline of some level of funding.
“Where I’m concerned, though, is even at $900-$1,000, to an individual family who is not even particularly needy, that’s still a nice bit of money,” Reddy continued. “That still provides some relief so that the family can do other things.”
In addition, Reddy emphasized his concern that the reduction of the Student Choice Grant may have a negative impact on Ohio’s ability to retain and reward people seeking higher education. “I think [the Student Choice Grant] is an important component to recognizing that a student stayed in Ohio, the student, in our case, went to a very high-caliber institution, and hopefully it provides some benefit to those taxpayers and it provides some incentive to retaining, again in our case, very intelligent, potentially productive people in the state of Ohio.”
Reddy, as well as Oberlin students currently eligible for a Student Choice Grant, said that there may be less reason for prospective Ohio students to choose Oberlin over out-of-state colleges, if the grant is limited strictly to needy students. This is key in a state where concerns have been raised about the loss of many in the 18-35 year-old demographic to other states.
College sopohomore Rebecca Calvo, who currently receives a Student Choice Grant, told the Review in an e-mail that, “The grant provided me and my family a lot of incentive to concentrate my college search on schools in Ohio...kids in high schools now who are like me when I was searching for a college will look out of state first if they want to attend a private college.”
Calvo added that, “If they choose to go to school out of state, they are a lot less likely to come back to Ohio.”
It is too early to tell whether Strickland’s proposal will be implemented, as the budget is not usually signed into law until late spring. For his part, Reddy was unsure about the amount of opposition that the proposal will meet, commenting, “The aid community is not real happy about this, but also we don’t know a whole lot [about the effects of Strickland’s proposal].”
Reddy added later, “The governor, though, is very committed to getting more Ohioans into higher education – that’s a very clear message I hear from him.”