New grant will give more money, opportunities for Ohio’s students

Amanda Garrett

Starting next year, a new grant system may help make college affordable for more Ohioans.

The Ohio College Opportunity Grant will gradually replace the Ohio Instructional Grant and the Part-Time Student Grant that has previously provided assistance to students.

“The new program will help give more grants to the neediest of students,” said Deborah Gavlik, associate vice chancellor of governmental relations and budgets. “OIG will especially help two kinds of students: part-time students and families with more than one child in college.”

The new grant will shift the maximum family income for receiving the grant money from $39,000 to $75,000 and increase the maximum award for someone attending a public university 14 percent to $2,496, according to a June report from the Ohio Board of Regents.

Incoming freshmen will be eligible for the OCOG beginning Fall 2006, Gavlik said. Other students will continue to receive aid under the old system until 2010 when the new system will be fully implemented.

In 2003, the Ohio Board of Regents convened the Statewide Consultation on Financial Aid and Student Costs to recommend changes in the grant program, Gavlik said.

The consultation group revised the grant system because of the diminishing value of student aid, the way student financial need is met and the inconsistent treatment of part-time students, Gavlik said.

Rising tuition and

lowering aid

During the late ’80s, the OIG paid for as much as 60 percent of the average tuition for an Ohio public university, the report said. Because of rising tuition rates and diminishing state funding, the OIG covered only 34 percent of tuition in the 2004 and 2005 fiscal years.

The new OCOG will pay 50 percent of tuition, and combined with the maximum Pell Grant, it should pay the average tuition price at Ohio’s public colleges and universities for the neediest students.

Measuring financial need differently

Only family income and the number of dependent children are considered to measure financial need for the OIG.

The OCOG changes the criteria to the Expected Family Contribution method used in determining federal financial aid. The new system includes more factors to determine financial need, including:

– income needed for living expenses

– the cost of having more than one child in college at a time

– family and student assets

– dependent student income

– the age of parents — older parents are expected to save more money for retirement, while younger parents are expected to contribute more toward their child’s education

Part-time students

The Part-Time Student Grant program has a number of inconsistencies, Gavlik said.

Under the current program, a low-income student taking 12 credit hours may receive an OIG, but a student with a similar financial background who only takes 11 credit hours may not even receive a Part-Time Grant, she said. The new OCOG would give students financial aid regardless of credit load.

Contact on-campus reporter Amanda Garrett at [email protected].