Ohio budget looks promising for higher education

By: Jenna Thomas

Every two years, the Ohio state legislature spends months piecing together the state’s budget. In the early days of February, Governor Mike DeWine outlined his intentions with the budget, providing high-level goals and priorities. Some major investments this year include small business aid, infrastructure including public broadband access, and attracting new residents to Ohio. Ultimately, the House and Senate will negotiate and change DeWine’s outline.

The state budget can also have huge implications for higher education. Public institutions get financial support from the state, and some financial aid streams come from the state budget. As a public institution, Cleveland State University falls into this category. 

The financial effects of COVID-19 had many worrying that Ohio would struggle to support its many agencies. Fortunately, the situation is not as dire as some have projected. In fact, DeWine intends to increase the state share of instruction (the amount that the state gives towards instructional costs), which is projected to increase by 1% in fiscal years 2022 and 2023―over $4 billion in the next two years. It will require colleges to spend those additional funds on need-based financial aid, student support services, and workforce preparation.

Another promising goal is to increase the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (the only need-based financial aid from the state) by over 6%. 

On Feb. 11, the House Finance Committee brought the chancellor of higher education, Randy Gardner, in to gain more context around public universities’ priorities and efforts, and how the state budget can support those efforts. Chancellor Gardner explained that the major focus at the state level is to get more students to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.

“Completing the FAFSA is a critical step in exposing the full range of postsecondary opportunities available to students. FAFSA is not just to qualify for aid to traditional colleges but also for technical colleges, and for aid to pay for certificates and credentials,” he said.

Although state funding will probably remain consistent, many college students have chosen to unenroll or delay enrollment, during the pandemic. The financial effects of decreased enrollment could still mean tuition costs will increase.

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