An Editorial From The Canton Repository
The issue: State grant restrictions
For the past four years, community college students in Ohio have been denied access to the state’s financial aid program for low-income students. This is baffling at best, infuriating at worst.
The General Assembly should end this restriction during a state budget review early next year.
The Rep reported Thursday that until 2009, the state made Ohio College Opportunity Grants available to students at community colleges and at state university regional campuses. Then, facing a budget crunch, the Legislature cut off these students, many of whom work and raise families as well as attend college. The grants for full-time students can range from $224 to more than $2,000 a year.
Inexplicably, the state has restored eligibility for these grants to students at for-profit schools. That’s not the only mystery, though.
The change in the eligibility rules flies in the face of both Ohio’s higher-education goals and new thinking in education circles about the value of two-year degrees.
Ask Gov. John Kasich about his top goals for higher education, and he’s sure to mention better alignment between employers’ needs and college curricula. That’s precisely the alignment that allows community colleges to thrive and their graduates to succeed. So why deny students at these schools the ability to get their degrees as quickly as possible — another state goal?
Not only that, but we’re seeing more and more discussion of the value of two-year degrees as strong credentials for 21st-century jobs that require more education than high school provides but less than four-year colleges offer.
State legislators who supported the restrictions on grant eligibility talk of necessary financial compromises. Jeff Ortega of the Ohio Association of Community Colleges has a perspective that’s more to the point: “Community college students like those at Stark State (College) are the only sector of higher education students who do not receive state needs-based aid,” he notes. “These students are voters. These students are taxpayers, yet they don’t enjoy the same access to state resources that any other student does.”
State legislators of both parties, including Reps. Kirk Schuring, R-Jackson Township, and Stephen Slesnick, D-Canton, say they want to reverse this decision. We hope their efforts are successful, so that “Opportunity Grants” can again live up to their name