As Ohio Trails Nation in College Attainment, New Report Lays
out Plan for Equitable, Free College
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
released a new plan
for equitable, free college to address these related
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
Ohio ranks 45th least 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:
Guarantee that this is a grant, never a loan
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
Eliminate GPA and ACT/SAT requirements –
let admissions offices set standards