By Sarah Lovenheim
During his State of the State address, Governor Kasich vowed to tackle college completion rates, to make schools more accountable to their students, to encourage community college enrollment and to address tuition costs. We share the Governor’s desire to tackle these issues but we were disappointed that he said the responsibility of confronting cost should rest on schools, rather than the state.Students are struggling to pursue a higher education in the Buckeye State today and it’s because of state disinvestment that colleges and universities have raised costs.
Ohio has slashed its spending per college student by 10 percent since the Great Recession. The Legislature has shifted the burden of paying for college from the state onto students. Now, Ohio families and students shoulder 62% of the cost of college. It didn’t used to be this way. The state used to shoulder more of the cost burden.
Today, Ohio only contributes 6 percent of its higher education budget to student aid. In 2014, Ohio spent less than five percent of its overall budget on higher education. Tuition is the elephant in the room that the Governor needs to tackle with the state legislature — and fast. Freezing tuition is not enough when the budget has been slashed so significantly in recent years.
College students from across the state are calling on lawmakers to restore funding to pre-Recession levels. They kicked off a movement — coined the Student Impact Project — that began last week to drive change.
As Justin Yeater, our Ohio outreach coordinator, explained to a crowd of dozens of college students gathered by the statehouse: boosting state funding for higher education is key to increasing Millennial job prospects, and to gaining long-term financial security. Watch the clip:
Following a rally, the dozens of students who had traveled to Columbus from across the state sat down with their legislators to discuss how higher tuition has affected their lives.Rob Lierenz of Kent State University — one of the students who lobbied his legislators — talked about how he is the first member of his family to attend college. As Mark Kovak of Dix Capital Bureau noted, Lierenz will leave school with “at least $30,000 worth of debt,” and that’s left over after working nearly a full time job while in school. Lierenz works 30 hours a week in a cabinet shop to make ends meet.
Kovak added, Lierenz said he wants legislators “to know how hard this generation is working to make it through college,” he said. “… If we do not reverse the trend, and they continue in this direction, I don’t think it’s hard to envision a future where people from [rural areas] like me are not able to go to college, they don’t have that opportunity…”
Governor Kasich can and should shift course to make reinvestment in higher education part of his plan to give every young Ohioan the ‘equal chance’ he spoke of last week. If he takes this critical step, more young Ohioans will be able to build the knowledge and skills they need to enter the fields of their choice, and be able to contribute to Ohio’s economy in the long term.