Ohio legislators debate easing college tuition burden

OHIO — High college tuition rates across the country have some calling on legislators to ease the burden for families struggling to pay for it all.

What You Need To Know

  • In the U.S., $3,770 was the average cost of tuition for the 2020-21 academic year for two-year in-state students, according to CollegeBoard
  • In the U.S., $10,560 was the average cost of tuition for the 2020-21 academic year for four-year in-state students
  • In Ohio, in-state students paid on average $11,670 four-year institutions this year
  • Students learning at two-year institutions in Ohio paid $5,140 this year for in-state tuition

Ranking 15th in the nation for having the highest college tuition rates in the country, students in Ohio are feeling the pinch. Education advocates said what the Ohio General Assembly has contributed over the years is not enough.

With an opportunity to boost funding this biennium budget, many are wanting more money to be put toward its share of instruction and financial aid, so that families can afford to send their students to school without struggling to do so.

While Gov. Mike DeWine’s budget adds $17.3 million in 2022 and $19.1 million in 2023, the current Senate and House proposed budgets don’t provide any additional relief.

Graduate student Holly Paden’s working on her third degree at Ohio State University. Paden, 28, had to think about whether or not she’d pursue her education further after finishing her master’s because of the cost.

With hopes of landing a good paying job after school, she took the leap again to begin working on a Ph.D. in human nutrition. While she’s gotten quite a few scholarships and fellowships to help her get by, her student loans add up to about $60,000 right now.

“Loans really started ramping up later in undergrad and then into graduate school,” Paden explained.

For her brother, he’s had to use credit cards to pay for school.

“The tuition keeps rising and the financial aid grant program keeps falling. It’s a bad combination for most Ohio families. If they didn’t let inflation erode the value of their contribution by any and after you know budget after budget. Then colleges would not be raising tuition, the way that they have over the last 10 or 15 years,” said Wendy Patton, senior project director at Policy Matters Ohio.

To help ease the burden of high costs, Patton said the state should have been putting more money toward its share of instruction over time. Based on the governor’s budget, additional money was set aside for the college opportunity grant fund and requires public universities to offer guaranteed tuition so students will pay the same price for their sophomore, junior and senior years as they did for their freshman year.

Still, Patton believes the legislature needs to do more if they want to reach their 2025 goal of having more Ohioans with a post-secondary degree or credential that leads to well-paying jobs and a better economy. But she said schools need to make a change too in order to reach that goal.

“So colleges and universities, at present, turn over unpaid student debt on, educate, institutional loans that they make the students —  the student can’t pay fees, can’t pay fines (and the) kid falls behind on loans. They will turn that over to the Attorney General for collection and they will withhold transcripts.”

Expecting to finish her degree and graduate next spring, Paden would like to see a tuition decrease. That’s as long as it doesn’t come at the expense of professors seeing cuts. For now, she and Wendy Patton hope legislators make a turnaround soon

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