Despite increases in allocation and expenditures, state aid to students attending Ohio independent colleges and universities is just half of what it was in 2006-07.
The budget increase to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant includes a 2-to-1 award ratio between sectors and an increase for all recipients.
The Senate version of the two-year state of Ohio budget would raise financial aid for needy students to above $100 million for the first time in eight years.
After the state cut financial aid six years ago, Ohio nonprofit colleges have stepped up to meet their students' financial needs.
The policy and financial changes in the state's new College Credit Plus program have cut the number of partnerships between independent colleges and school districts by one third.
The House of Representatives' increase in the Ohio College Opportunity Grant represents a good first step in improving access to higher education for the state's neediest citizens.
The cost-effective way for Ohio to increase its educational attainment is clear.
The Executive Budget's marginal increase in the Ohio College Opportunity Grant program will be swallowed up by new eligibility for year-round students at two-year campuses.
Students attending Ohio independent colleges have had their financial aid from the state of Ohio slashed by more than half in the last decade.
Although the unspent appropriation rolls over this year into the new Ohio College Opportunity Grant reserve fund, needy Ohio college students ended up more than $9 million short in state support for their direct college costs.
Federal and state governments support Ohio's different types of higher education institutions differently.
Despite recent marginal increases, appropriations for need-based financial aid from the state of Ohio are lower than they were during the first year of Gov. George Voinovich's second term - even without accounting for inflation.
Ohio fails to come close to the national norm in its commitment to financial aid.
Need-based financial aid received only an incremental increase, targeted at students in the public and for-profit sectors, in the recently enacted Ohio biennial budget.
The Ohio House Budget Committee has approved a small increase in funding for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant for the next two academic years.
Draconian cuts in state financial aid have placed an increasing burden on independent colleges and the federal government to provide financial aid grants to their students, as just four years earlier the state provided $80 million - 9 percent of the total awarded.
Over the last two decades, while the states' commitment to student financial aid, measured in constant dollars, doubled, Ohio's dropped by 40 percent.
Ohio has under-funded need-based student aid for decades, but policy initiatives from two years ago have made the problem more acute than ever.
The small increase in need-based financial aid in the current state budget only begins to repair the recent damage to Ohio's commitment to the higher education of its neediest citizens.
In its recently enacted budget, the state of Ohio kept the Ohio College Opportunity Grant alive, but could not return its level of support for needy students to its level of just three years ago.
The state of Ohio budget now under consideration by the state Senate gives a larger share of the state's higher education budget to student financial aid in the next two years.
The newest proposal on financial aid to the state's neediest students promotes a radical shift in focus.
Newly proposed changes in the Ohio College Opportunity Grant for the next two academic years will cut the state's support for its poorest students attending independent colleges by nearly two thirds over this year, and nearly seven eighths over just three years.
The return on Ohio's investment in higher education is much higher at independent nonprofit colleges and universities.
The attempt to promote student access, by first freezing then limiting public-sector tuitions even as total higher education appropriations shrank, squeezed student financial aid and gave public-campus subsidy larger shares of smaller pies.
Major cuts in financial aid and other higher education infrastructure resulted in a precipitous falloff in support this year to Ohio's public and independent colleges and universities and their students.
Ohio's commitment to its neediest college students will continue to shrink in the next academic year.
Lifting the tuition freeze appears not to have damaged Ohio's public-sector enrollments for now, but the full effect will not become evident until announced tuition increases become effective in the winter or spring. The lion's share of the fall increase was at the two-year campuses - community college headcount jumped by nearly 17% and branch campus headcount by more than 11% over fall 2008.
Colleges around the state are now scrambling to help this fall's students, many of whom face thousands of dollars in state financial aid cuts.
Only one area in Ohio's higher education budget saw an increase, the public campuses' State Share of Instruction subsidy, while many other important programs were cut or eliminated outright.
Cuts in state aid - 10 percent less than the prior year - have placed more pressure on Ohio's independent colleges to assist students from their own funds. And they have responded by increasing student grants by almost 10 percent.
Changes in the state's financial aid programs proposed in the Executive Budget would drastically reduce the share that students at Ohio's independent colleges receive.
Nearly all the state support for independent higher education is in the form of student financial aid. The declining share largely results from sizeable subsidy increases to support a tuition freeze at public campuses and a concomitant 1/3 cut in the Student Choice Grant program for undergraduates at independent colleges.
State Expenditures Per Degree Awarded At Ohio Public and Independent Colleges (2- and 4-year) Fiscal Year 2007 (Academic Year 2006-07)
Source: Expenditures, Ohio Board of Regents; Degrees, National Center for Education Statistics
When measured by results - associate, bachelor's, and graduate degrees - the state's higher education dollars go much further at independent colleges.
Independent College Shares of Student Headcount and State of Ohio Higher Education Funds (not including capital funds)
Academic Year 2006-2007/Fiscal Year 2007
If you factor in money from the state's capital budget that supports infrastructure at public campuses, the share the state offers to independent colleges toward meeting Ohio's higher education goals shrinks even more.
In gaining larger numbers of external research dollars, as well as bachelor's degrees, the state's dollars go farther when supporting activities at Ohio's independent colleges.
Student Choice Grant Levels
Although the current state budget cut the Student Choice Grant for Ohio students at the state's independent colleges by almost a third, the grant still removes more than $2,500 from a student's loan debt after four years of study.