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Ohio Senate restores some college student grant funding in proposed operating budget




Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash

The Senate’s version of Ohio’s two-year operating budget restores some of the funding Gov. Mike DeWine originally proposed to a grant program that helps college students who have the highest level of financial need.

DeWine introduced his proposed budget earlier this year and the Ohio House introduced their version of the budget in April. The Ohio Senate introduced their version of the budget Tuesday and they are expected to vote on it next week. The budget must be signed by June 30.

The Ohio Department of Higher Education, which serves more than 635,000 students, has a proposed budget of $3 billion for fiscal year 2024 and $2.9 billion for fiscal year 2025.

Ohio College Opportunity Grant

The Senate’s version of the budget gives more money to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) than the House’s version, but still less money than DeWine put in his original proposed budget. OCOG gives grant money to Ohio residents who have the highest level of financial need, as determined by the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).

The Ohio Senate’s budget appropriates $200 million for both fiscal years.

By comparison, DeWine’s executive proposal appropriated $216.2 million in fiscal year 2024 and $346.1 million in fiscal year 2025 for OCOG. The Ohio House’s budget decreased the appropriations to $140.0 million in fiscal year 2024 and $175.0 million in fiscal year 2025.

President of Inter-University Council Laura Lanese asked the Senate to restore OCOG funding during budget testimony in front of the Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee back in May.

The Senate’s proposed budget also restores OCOG eligibility to community college students and those enrolled in university regional campuses. DeWine’s budget limited OCOG eligibility to students at a university main campus, a private nonprofit university or college, or a private for-profit career college.

The Senate’s budget would increases the income eligibility threshold for an OCOG award from $2,190 or less to $3,000 or less for all students eligible for an OCOG award.

This threshold is less than what DeWine originally put in his budget. He increased the threshold to $10,000 or less beginning with students who first enroll in the 2023-24 school year — equating to an average household adjusted gross income of approximately $87,000, Lanese said during her May testimony.

Public and non-profit college students who have OCOG awards currently receive $2,700 and $4,200, respectively and the Senate’s proposed budget would increase funding to students across the board.

Under the Senate’s budget, students with OCOG awards at state institutions of higher education would receive $3,000 in fiscal year 2024 and $4,000 in fiscal year 2025. Students at private nonprofit institutions would receive $4,500 in fiscal year 2024 and $5,000 in fiscal year 2025.  Students at private non-profit career colleges would receive $1,800 in fiscal year 2024 and $2,000 in fiscal year 2025.

“The increase in student scholarships as well as expanding eligibility will help make meaningful steps toward increasing Ohio’s workforce pipeline,” said C. Todd Jones, President and General Counsel of the Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio.

These amounts, however, differ from what DeWine put in his budget proposal.

Under his executive proposal, an OCOG award amount for a student who first enrolls in the 2024-25 academic year and any year after annually would be $6,000 per student at a state university main campus, $6,000 per student at a private nonprofit college or university, and $1,600 per student at a private for-profit career college.

Teacher prep programs

The Ohio Senate kept a provision from the House’s budget that would create metrics to ensure educator training programs align with the science of reading, which is based on decades of research that shows how the human brain learns to read. It incorporates phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

This would require the Ohio Department of Higher Education Chancellor to create an audit process that documents how every educator training program aligns with teaching the science of reading instruction. The Chancellor would be able to rescind the approval of educator training programs that don’t align with teaching the science of reading instruction a year after the initial audit, and programs would be evaluated every four years.

Merit-based scholarships

The Senate did not include part of DeWine’s budget that the House removed that recommended giving $5,000 per year scholarships to all Ohio high school students who graduate in the top 5% of their school’s class if they attend an in-state school.

Other provisions in the proposed budget

An addition to the Senate budget would require the ODHE Chancellor to create a statewide system of FAFSA support teams that would help schools with FAFSA completion. This would cost $1 million in fiscal year 2024.

The Senate’s proposed version of the budget wouldn’t allow state universities to charge a guaranteed amount of tuition and fees to the cohort of students entering the 2023-24 or 2024-25 school year that is more than 3% above what was charged to the prior academic year’s cohort.

Another provision would allow a student to decline a a university-mandated vaccine on the basis of “medical contraindications and reasons of conscience, including religious convictions,” according to an analysis by the nonpartisan Legislative Service Commission.

College housing comes up a couple of times in the Senate’s proposed budget. It would no longer require students enrolled in state institutions of higher education to live in on-campus student housing starting Jan. 1.

The Senate’s proposed budget also got rid of a provision the House added that would have allowed a community college district to acquire, lease, or construct housing and dining facilities — if it met certain criteria.

This story was republished from the Ohio Capital Journal under a Creative Commons license.

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