Stark provides summer grants

Samantha Laros

OCOG cuts replaced by relief fund

Halfway through the summer, many students taking classes at Kent State’s seven regional campuses learned the financial aid they thought they’d be receiving was denied by a new state budget cut.

On July 17, the Ohio Board of Regents announced a cut of $224 million to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, or OCOG. Within the budget cut, funding was eliminated for students at technical schools, community colleges and regional campuses.

This past year, students at Kent State’s Stark campus received about $1 million form OCOG. About $80,000 was awarded this past summer.

To help students who were caught off guard by the funding cut, the Stark campus administration has identified funds to award in place of the OCOG.

Mary Southards, assistant dean for enrollment services at the Stark campus, said the fund was created in 2004 after the Ohio Board of Regents announced regional campuses could raise tuition up to 6 percent provided that any profit above 3 percent be donated to emergency grant funds for low-income financial or technology assistance. The fund was awarded during the past few years to students based on need.

“What we’re going to do is use this fund to award OCOG to the students who were enrolled this summer who thought they were going to get it,” Southards said.

The emergency fund will not cover the estimated $1 million students receive in OCOG throughout the academic year.

“We are not going to be able to cover that $1 million; we don’t have the funds to do that,” she said. “But we are going to be able to help the summer students who really got caught by surprise.”

The cut in funds affects all of Kent State’s seven regional campuses.

Beth Allison-Christy, administrative assistant in student services at the Salem campus, said students at that campus might be faced with the decision to take out a loan for the first time this fall.

“Now, they’re faced with the decision of taking a loan that they’re real skeptical of doing right now with the way the economy is,” she said.

She said while loans are usually needed for high fees at Kent State’s main campus, at the regional campuses, which have lower fees and tuition rates, students could often cover the total cost of tuition with combined Pell Grants and OCOG.

“They’re coming to school to try to get an education to get a job, and now all they see themselves doing is starting themselves into debt, and they hadn’t anticipated that debt.”

Contact regional campuses reporter Samantha Laros at [email protected].