By John Comerford
Ohio is on the move, and we are once again showing the world that the combination of know-how, strong pro-growth policies, and world-class higher education can spur economic growth and create jobs. In just the past year, huge new projects from Intel, Honda, and others have validated this approach, and our state’s leaders deserve recognition for helping make it possible.
Gov. Mike DeWine’s recent budget proposal contains the right ingredients for keeping Ohio moving with its strong focus on learning, especially in higher education. One of the most notable proposals in the budget is the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), which would receive an additional $337 million in funding over the next biennium. This will increase the eligibility threshold for students from families with an income of up to $87,000 and nearly double the award amounts for each student.
Bottom line: more Ohio students will be able attend the college of their choice, Ohio’s workforce will grow, and our state will become more competitive.
OCOG is Ohio’s primary need-based aid program and provides financial assistance to low-to-moderate-income students to attend college in the state. This increase in funding is a significant step towards ensuring that all Ohio students have access to higher education, regardless of their financial background.
Gov. DeWine’s budget proposal also includes the creation of a new merit-based scholarship program that would provide students finishing in the top 5% of their school’s graduating class an additional $5,000 a year if they attend an Ohio college or university. Additionally, the Choose Ohio First Scholarship program, which focuses on talent retention and STEM education, will receive an increase of $2 million in each fiscal year to reach $32 million per year by the end of the biennium.
These investments in education and scholarships are crucial to Ohio’s future economic growth and workforce development. As Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor Gardner has said, “By supporting Ohio’s students, we give ourselves the best opportunity possible to keep them in Ohio to take advantage of our credential and degree offerings, and then thrive in Ohio’s emerging economy.” Investing in Ohio’s students is a long-term strategy that will benefit the state’s economy and its citizens for years to come.
As president of Otterbein University, I am excited about these new efforts to expand learning opportunities to more Ohio students. It’s the right thing and very much in line with how Otterbein approaches its mission. Beginning in fall 2023, Otterbein will provide all new full-time students who receive the Ohio College Opportunity Grant and the federal Pell grant with a package of Otterbein scholarships and grants that covers the balance of their tuition costs – without loans. This initiative, called the Otterbein Commitment to Meet Full Tuition Need, is a bold move to ensure that students from low-income families have access to a high-quality education without the burden of student debt.
To be clear, this commitment would be impossible without continued state and federal commitments to need-based aid programs like OCOG and Pell Grants. Providing funding to students does not increase the cost of tuition, it opens the doors of higher education to bright and deserving students.
The governor’s budget proposal should be applauded for prioritizing education and scholarships. Investing in Ohio’s students is an investment in the state’s future. Let us hope that the budget proposal is passed and implemented, so that Ohio’s students can thrive and lead Ohio into a prosperous future.
John Comerford is president of Otterbein University.