The Ohio State University President revealed a new initiative designed to help students graduate from the school debt-free. The plan, Scarlet and Gray Advantage, was discussed on Friday at the investiture ceremony held by Dr. Kristina Johnson. Johnson is the 16th president of the University, and she discussed the plan as well as her other goals.
Johnson told the public that public safety is their number one priority. OSU said that their collaboration with Columbus Police has helped them reduce crime in the University District 60% since August. Johnson has been under fire after a crime surge this fall. Families with “Buckeyes for a Safe Ohio State” have said that the violence is unacceptable and that students have been targeted like “sitting ducks”.
The student that she’s referring to is Chase Meola, who was shot and killed last October at a fraternity house. His death led to outrage among the OSU community, and many groups called for better safety measures to be put in place. One of their complaints was that the campus is too dark, so they called for more lighting to be installed all throughout the campus.
The new program will provide scholarships and grants, along with opportunities to do paid work. According to Johnson, OSU is also going to provide financial counseling. OSU is going to start a pilot program in fall 2022 with around 125 first-year students. They’re then going to phase in programming over the next decade.
Programs like this are sparking a new way to try and battle the college debt crisis in America. The Federal Reserve estimates that, as of 2021, Americans owe around $1.73 trillion in college debt. This is a record-breaking total, and it’s especially surprising after the pandemic put a pause on federal student loan interest rates and some debt being eliminated by the Biden administration. In 2011, Americans owed an estimate of around $905 billion in student loan debt, so the number has increased more than 91% in the past decade.
WalletHub compared the 50 states based around which ones struggle the most with student loan debt. They determined that West Virginia struggles the most with student loan debt, and California was among the least that struggle. This could be because West Virginia shows to have the worst ratio of student debt to income being made after school, while California is known for being a state that has a high average household income.
A 2020 report from The Institute for College Access and Success ranked the amount of debt that students from the college class of 2019 had upon graduating. Ohio students had an average of $29,886, ranking them 22 out of 50. In their report, New Hampshire had the highest amount of debt after graduating, and Utah had the lowest amount.
Research from places like the Federal Reserve Bank of New York suggests that the amount states invest in public higher education is the most significant cause for the geographical differences in student debt. States that are willing to invest more in education see lower debt figures. Reports from the TICAS also show that colleges who enroll more low-income students and students of color often receive less funding from states.
Schak also pointed out how states like California have things such as the Cal Grant program that reduce net costs and limit borrowing. California allocates state grant aid based on need rather than merit, which helps them limit how much money low-income students need to borrow.
Student debt is at an all-time high, so while policymakers are debating whether or not they should put more programs in place to cancel student debt, relief projects like the one being brought to OSU are important for reducing the student loan crisis. If states start to put more funding into higher education and need-based programs, they may see an overall decrease in student loans. However, since states with lower average incomes are more likely to have high amounts of student debt, it also brings in questions of why college is getting more expensive if career rates aren’t also rising, and if college is even worth it for many.