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Lawmaker Wants State To Assess Low Pell Grant Enrollment

Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati)
Andy Chow
Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati)

A Democratic lawmaker is calling attention to a report that she says raises red flags over college affordability. The report pointed out several in-state colleges and universities with a low enrollment of students from low-income and working class families.

The report from Education Reform Now, a think tank affiliated with Democrats for Education Reform, named seven Ohio institutions with lower-than-average enrollment of students that receive the Pell Grant. The Pell grant is available for students with a household income under $60,000.

The report says, nationwide, about 31% of college students receive Pell Grant aid.

These seven schools had a three-year average of Pell Grant enrollment that fell below 20%:

  • Case Western Reserve University
  • Kenyon College
  • Miami University
  • Oberlin College
  • Ohio State University
  • College of Wooster
  • University of Dayton

Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) called the findings disturbing and troubling.

"Because they impact Ohio's most vulnerable, low-income, and working class families. Higher education should be equitable and accessible to all Ohioans," says Ingram. "This study reveals that higher education is becoming more and more unattainable for more Ohioans."

Critics of the study question the report's methodology, arguing that it doesn't accurately measure what schools are doing to become more accessible.

C. Todd Jones, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio president, says the report is comparing "apples to oranges."

He says it only takes into account what are known as first-time/full-time students. These are students who enrolled with one school and continued as full-time. But Jones argues this misses out on students who transfer or who go to school part-time.

"Low-income students tend to be part-time in greater numbers and they also have a greater chance of being someone who transfers from a community college," says Jones.

Jones also says higher education institutions in Ohio are focusing on other way to make college more accessible and affordable. That includes offering free courses for credits in high school.

Ingram sent a letter to the Ohio Department of Higher Education asking that it assess the "adequacy of college access at the seven institutions."

The department issued a written statement saying, "The DeWine Administration is committed to ensuring access to higher education for all students who seek post-secondary education in Ohio. Our budget includes the largest increase in history in need-based financial aid through the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), on top of continued support for College Credit Plus, which has saved Ohio families $569 million in tuition costs over the past four years."

Randy Gardner, department chancellor, has also reached out to Ingram to talk more about the issue.

Copyright 2021 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Andy Chow is a general assignment state government reporter who focuses on environmental, energy, agriculture, and education-related issues. He started his journalism career as an associate producer with ABC 6/FOX 28 in Columbus before becoming a producer with WBNS 10TV.