Cuts to Higher Education Shortchange Ohioans of Color
From Policy Matters Ohio
Ohio's piddling public investment in higher
education over the last decade has made going to college
more expensive, leaving many students with little choice but
to take on more debt or give up on their dreams. The problem
is especially serious for black, Latina, and low-income
Ohio is one of 45 states that spent less per
student in the 2018 school year than in 2008—even as the
economy and state budgets have returned to pre-recession
levels, according to
Unkept Promises: State Cuts to Higher
Education Threaten Access and Equity,
a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
(CBPP). Ohio cut funding by 18 percent, or $1,304 per
student—compared to 16 percent, or $1,502 per student,
Cuts to higher education have helped drive up
the cost of attending public colleges and universities.
Between 2008 and 2018, the average tuition at public
four-year institutions in Ohio grew by 4.9 percent, or $500.
Since 2008, Ohio policymakers also cut funding for the Ohio
College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), the state's only
need-based aid grant. In 2019, funding for OCOG will be $122
million less than in 2008, not adjusted for
inflation. Low-income students and students of color are
more likely to attend community colleges, but students at
those institutions are not eligible to receive OCOG.
"Discrimination and other barriers to
employment mean people of color earn lower wages than white
Ohioans," Policy Matters Ohio researcher Victoria Jackson
said. "Lower wages mean families of color pay higher shares
of their household income towards tuition and fees."
Ohio is ranked the fifth most expensive state
for Bback families and eighth most expensive for Latino
families. The typical black and Latino families spend 32
percent and 25 percent, respectively, of their household
income on tuition and fees, according to the CBPP report.
Typical white Ohio families, on the other hand, spend 17
percent of their household income on tuition and fees.
"The rising cost of college risks blocking
one of America's most important paths to economic mobility.
And while these costs hinder progress for everyone, black,
Latina, and low-income students continue to face the most
significant barriers to opportunity," said Michael Mitchell,
senior policy analyst at CBPP and lead author of the report.
Federal and state financial aid has failed to
bridge the gap created by rising tuition and relatively
stagnant incomes. As a result, the share of students
graduating with debt has risen. Between the 2008 and 2015
school years, the share of students graduating with debt
from a public four-year institution rose from 55 percent to
59 percent nationally. The average amount of debt also
increased during this period. On average, bachelor's degree
recipients at four-year public schools saw their debt grow
by 26 percent (from $21,226 to $27,000). By contrast, the
average amount of debt rose by only about 1 percent in the
six years prior to the recession.
Americans' slow income growth has worsened
the situation. While the average tuition bill increased by
36 percent between 2008 and 2018, median incomes grew by
just over 2 percent. Nationally, the average tuition at a
four-year public college accounted for 16.5 percent of
median household income in 2017, up from 14 percent in
The high cost burden for people of color
contributes to lower postsecondary attainment for Latina and
black Ohioans. Twenty-six-point-five percent of black
Ohioans aged 25-64 and 26.9 percent of Latina Ohioans have
attained an associate's degree or higher, compared to
40.2 percent of white Ohioans.
"Ohio policymakers are underfunding higher
education while allowing billions in tax cuts for the
wealthy and corporations," Jackson said. "We need to raise
revenue by ensuring those who can afford to pay
more are paying their fair share. Policymakers must commit
to making college affordable by robustly investing and
public colleges and need-based aid."