Today’s preschoolers may get college for cheap

Steve Bushong

If a proposed amendment to Ohio’s constitution is passed Nov. 7, the high school class of 2021 could go to Kent State for considerably less than what current students are paying.

The amendment, which is named Ohio Learn and Earn, would provide scholarship funds for all Ohio college students through revenue made from slot machines.

Each high school graduate would receive funds for college equal to the average cost of undergraduate tuition at Ohio’s public universities, according to the Ohio Learn and Earn Web site.

If the amendment were already passed and fully functioning, Kent State undergraduate tuition would be about $1,400 this year. (The average tuition in Ohio is $7,040, according to the College Board. Kent State’s tuition is about $8,400.)

Ohio Learn and Earn spokesperson Michael Hopcraft said the amendment isn’t too good to be true.

“It’s in the constitution. It’s not like the lottery or tobacco money, where they put it where they want it,” he said. “It’s constitutionally guaranteed.”

According to Ohio Learn and Earn’s Web site, 30 percent of profits from Ohio’s slot machines would go toward college scholarships, which equates to about $1 billion per year — a realistic figure, according to the Web site.

Slot machines in West Virginia earn about $400 a day, according to the Learn and Earn Web site. The billion dollar figure is a projection which assumes Ohio’s slot machines make $250 per day.

The slot machines would be operating by 2009 in two downtown Cleveland locations, and at seven horseracing venues within Ohio’s borders. The machines would be tightly regulated.

But even though the money could start rolling in by 2009, the program wouldn’t be fully funded until 12 years later — just in time for the class of 2021.

Until then, just the top 5 percent of students from each graduating class will receive funds, Hopcraft said.

If students were to pursue interests besides college after high school graduation, such as the armed forces, they could claim their scholarship up to 10 years later, he said.

“We need to educate the kids in Ohio, keep them in Ohio,” Hopcraft said.

Ohio Learn and Earn, which was designed by the Ohio Board of Regents, was petitioned onto the November ballot. More than 600,000 signatures were delivered to the Secretary of State’s office Aug. 2.

The proposed amendment is a rethinking of Ohio Senate Bill 99, which was not approved.

Contact general assignment reporter Steve Bushong at [email protected].