Board of Regents may adopt program to help offset student family costs
Diapers and a degree — the first may soon help lead to the latter.
The Ohio Board of Regents is negotiating a financial aid program with individual colleges and universities that will help parents with families in financial need.
The program is designed to encourage students to get a degree and become independent of public assistance, said Mark Evans, director of student financial aid at Kent State.
Those who qualify would need to have completed at least 15 credit hours and be a parent or expectant mother without outside family financial support, according to the Ohio Board of Regents. The full-time students would be given up to $1,200 worth of vouchers for two semesters to help pay for expenses. Part-time students could also receive vouchers totaling $600.
Expenses could range from Gerber food to Ghandi books for philosophy class, from babysitters to biology supplies.
The program, which was modeled off a similar plan in Louisiana, would be funded through one allocation from Ohio’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families welfare fund. Gov. Bob Taft earmarked $30 million for the vouchers, but money not used before he leaves office would need to be re-approved by November’s newly elected governor.
Neither gubernatorial candidate has stated a position about whether he would re-approve the funding, so Evans said it is up in the air as to how long parent students would receive such financial aid.
But Kent State is willing to take all it can get.
“Over the last five or six years, there has been no increase in federal and state financial aid,” Evans said. “We welcome any additional funding, even if it is only for a one year period and requires a lot of administrative work.”
The plan has been in the works since May, and although the state board wanted to begin the program before classes began this fall, agreements with universities have held up the process. None have finalized plans to offer the vouchers.
The schools need to agree to administer the program, determine students’ eligibility and submit to a year-end audit of how the funds were dispersed, said Sylvia Bustard, Kent State assistant director for grants and scholarships.
It’s proving not to be that easy, due to the heavy administrative overhead and agreements it will take between each university.
Even with difficulties in tow, Kent State plans to offer the vouchers. It has just been a matter of working out those details, Evans said.
Bustard estimated that within the next few weeks, contracts will be sent to participating universities.
Because the program targets parents, it adds an incentive for the financial aid office to want to work with the Ohio Board of Regents.
“The goal of the program is very noble,” Bustard said.
The aid could be very beneficial to those students in more than just a need situation, said Vice President for Administration David Creamer, but it wouldn’t impact as many students as one may think.
“Students with families at Kent State are not commonplace,” he said. “This would affect a very small number of students.”
Evans said the number is probably around several hundred at both main and regional campuses. Because the state only has $30 million for the program for the whole state of Ohio, the exact amount of the vouchers could change to sufficiently cover everyone eligible.
Evans said the financial aid office will soon have a supplement application on its Web site, www.sfa.kent.edu, so university officials can get an idea of how many students it may include. Each university must send in an estimated amount of how many students may receive this aid.
Contact administration reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected]