Vindicator: Restore College Financial Aid

An editorial in the Youngstown Vindicator on Dec. 22, 2014

There is no reason that students attending Ohio’s many community colleges should be discriminated against when it comes to receiving state financial assistance. But, that’s exactly the situation today because state government has not restored the Ohio College Opportunity Grants for financially disadvantaged community-college students.
By comparison, four-year public colleges and universities and private and proprietary colleges have regained the ability to provide needs-based aid.
This double standard flies in the face of the strong endorsements of community colleges from Gov. John Kasich, members of the General Assembly, the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents and the governor’s special consultant on higher education.
Given the changing economy and the demands of the burgeoning oil and gas industry in Ohio for trained workers, Kasich and other state officials have made it clear that two-year institutions have an important role to play in the economic future.
And yet, the financial aid that is most needed by students in community colleges is not available.
“Obviously, we think that’s wrong,” said Jeff Ortega, spokesman for the Ohio Association of Community Colleges. “These students are taxpayers. These students are voters, and we think it’s a matter of fairness and equity.”
In January, a Columbus-based nonprofit research center issued a report saying that the cuts in needs-based aid had a dramatic impact on low-income students.
The elimination of the Ohio College Opportunity Grants for financially disadvantaged students occurred in 2009 in the midst of the national economic recession.
The association recommends reinstatement of the aid by establishing a $1,000 per semester performance-based workforce grant. It would be for up to $2,000 an academic year.
A priority
The legislative delegation from the Mahoning Valley should make reinstatement a priority in light of the fact that Eastern Gateway Community College, which has established a strong presence in this region, has increased its student population more than any other two-year institution in the state.
Many of the students need financial aid.