KL Allen: Ohioans could leave millions of dollars in university aid on the table
Just as Ohio employers who are hit hard by the pandemic slowdown seek to hire or promote workers with enhanced job skills, less Ohio may seek the advanced and challenging education they need. . That’s the finding reported by the National College Attainment Network, a nonprofit advocacy center that tracks aid application rates at state and federal colleges.
Their conclusion from recent data: In Ohio and other states, at least 10% fewer high school students and their families apply for scholarships and loans compared to the pre-pandemic application cycle.
Because the economic toll of the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted much of the daily life of Ohioans, many families have been forced to juggle their finances and reconsider their plans for the future. Faced with uncertainty and financial pressures, they also know that the path to a well-paying career requires a college degree or some other form of post-secondary certification. Unfortunately, too many people who are faced with this dilemma do not realize that there is financial aid available to help them or that there is a free online application process to access this aid.
This process begins with the free application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA, an online site that is the gateway to Federal Student Aid – and many state programs. The deadline for federal aid for the current academic year (2020-21) is June 30, 2021. Applications for the 2021-22 academic year are available now and should be completed by October 1, 2021 , in order to respond to both the Ohio and the federal government. deadlines for financial assistance. By submitting the FAFSA by October 1, Ohio residents will simultaneously apply for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant, which can still offset tuition fees.
By filing a FAFSA, a mature student or the family of a younger student can show how their financial situation deserves a grant or other help to help cover costs at most colleges and universities in Ohio or across the country. . Better yet, in many states – including Ohio – the FAFSA form is also the starting point for state-supported university aid and a whole range of other forms of assistance. In fact, at my own institution, Western Governors University Ohio, a high percentage of our students receive financial aid, scholarship, or loan – much of which started with the FAFSA.
That’s why I join other Ohio educators in applauding Governor Mike DeWine for recently allocating $ 3.5 million to fund the development of a statewide strategy to improve the completion of the FAFSA, spurring demands for student aid that have plummeted due to the pandemic. And the governor’s far-sighted proposal to make sure every high school student in the state has a FAFSA application on file before graduating would allow several thousand Ohio students to qualify for financial aid.
Concerns about the cost of college education are understandable at any time. But today, with an uncertain economy and job losses, this is an even more serious concern. Despite these pressures, I find it astonishing that so many Ohioans – for whatever reason – fail to apply for state and federal financial aid that begs to be claimed – aid that would render possible their university dreams or those of their relatives. In fact, given the current trend of aid likely not being claimed, millions of dollars from federal aid programs alone could be left on the table this year.
Unfortunately, this can happen because families and adults seeking a degree are unaware of the process for claiming those dollars. Worse yet, many of those who could use this aid will hang around and pass the deadlines or even choose to stay away. State-wide, ill-informed, or misinformed choices like these make it harder for an entire generation in Ohio to get the degrees they’ll need in a growing job market skill dependent.
We cannot allow this sad trend to continue if we hope to see Ohio’s economy recover from the pandemic slow down, because we know that job creators of all types – large businesses and small entrepreneurs – have more in addition, there is a need for a workforce made up of men and women. with high-level skills needed to meet the needs of today’s technology-intensive economy.
There is no doubt that our economy will recover from the downturn in the pandemic and most families will recover. But a rapid and full recovery depends on the educational attainment of our workforce – the young people who have just entered the workforce as well as the older workers looking to “develop” and improve their careers. . If that happens, we will have successfully tackled Ohio’s most daunting economic challenge since the Great Depression, and we will all be better prepared for the new challenges ahead.
KL Allen is Chancellor of WGU Ohio, the state branch of the online nonprofit Western Governors University.