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Ohio State President Wants To Be National Leader In Ending Student Debt

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The Ohio State University
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Ohio State University president Kristina Johnson is elaborating on short-term plans to get campus life back to normal and longer-term efforts to help students graduate debt free.

Speaking on WOSU's All Sides with Ann Fisher on Wednesday, Johnson expanded on the "debt free college" initiative she announced during her first-ever State of the University address. She explains that, right now, about 4,500 students are graduating with an average debt load of $27,000.

“It’s over $100 million a year,” she says. “So you have to take that big problem and break it down. So you break it down over 10 years, so that means that every year you have to come up with a replacement for $10 million, and that compounds, right?”

Johnson says philanthropy, paid internships and lowering the overall cost of attendance will play a role in reducing student debt. The university will also work with students to aggressively seek out federal financial aid that may be available.

Congress and President Joe Biden's administration are weighing much broader plans to help people struggling with college loans, but Johnson insists this effort is still an important part of getting students started on a successful career path.

“What I’ve been hearing is a lot about loan forgiveness,” she says. “But then if we don’t fix the path or the pipeline, then we’re just going to accumulate debt again, so you know, I think we can be a leader nationally.”

In terms of campus life, Johnson expects some "return to normal" by fall, but some public health measures could linger. She says masking in particular has shown significant results in preventing COVID-19 and other diseases on campus.

“February of last year, 2020, there are 6,600 cases of hospitalizations due to the flu, you know, the common flu, not the coronavirus infection,” Johnson says. “This year? Ninety-two.”