Grant amount still up in the air

Kelly Petryszyn

Proposal could increase award for students

Students who receive the Ohio College Opportunity Grant won’t know for sure how much money they will receive until mid-summer, Director of Financial Aid Mark Evans said.

Recipients will soon get a letter from the Financial Aid office explaining that the amount distributed is an estimate and is subject to change.

This change is part of a proposed state grant reform formula that is up for approval by Gov. Ted Strickland and the Ohio General Assembly no later than June 30, 2009. The reform formula is part of the 2010-2011 biennial budget, which the General Assembly will pass to Strickland for his signature June 30.

The proposed change to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant is to make the grant a flat award amount of $2,496, which for some students could be a “significant increase,” Evans said. In the past the grant was appropriated in various amounts depending on a student’s Estimated Federal Contribution derived from the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.

“For the highest need students, proposed change will close the gap between tuition cost and grant availability,” Evans said. By making the award flat, students would receive the full $2,496 instead of part of it, resulting in more overall aid.

Kent State did include the proposed increase in aid on students’ financial aid letters. Returning students will receive their letter by the end of April. If the state changes don’t pass, the office will have to re-advise aid, Evans said.

The Ohio Board of Regents wants to “cover tuition and fees for as many students” as possible, said Mike Chaney, spokesman for the Ohio Board of Regents.

The proposed change will put “less of a burden on the loan side” for students funding college, he said.

Some other proposed changes to state financial aid include the elimination of the Ohio Student Choice Grant program, which provides financial assistance to students at private schools, and the proposed discontinuation of the graduate/professional fellowship program, according to the Ohio Board of Regents.

Chaney said the state is able to restructure aid because they have more money to work with. The tuition freeze that will be in place for the next two years means the state government has had to award less money to meet student need. On top of that, the need-based Pell Grant is expected to increase from $4,731 to $5,350, allowing for additional federal aid.

If the student’s cost of attendance is met by the Pell Grant, an Ohio College Opportunity Grant will not be awarded, according to the Ohio Board of Regents. The grant is awarded to students with an EFC of 2190 or less as calculated by the FAFSA.

Evans said students looking at their financial aid letters may see that it “should be greater than last year” due to changes in the Pell and the Ohio College Opportunity grants.

The University of Akron accounted for the proposed increase in its award letters, said Doug McNutt, director of financial aid and student enrollment services. Only two schools in Ohio did not include it.

“For the most part, many of us felt the proposal seemed to make sense,” McNutt said.

Contact student affairs reporter Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].