The recently approved Ohio state budget (HB 49) included an increase in the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) for low-income students attending career colleges. The Ohio-Michigan Association of Career Colleges and Schools (OMACCS) was instrumental in persuading the Ohio General Assembly to support OCOG tuition assistance to enable our students to earn degrees, seek retraining, and increase their earning potential.
This is great news for the Ohioans earning associate’s or bachelor’s degrees at career colleges.
The legislature boosted total OCOG spending to $103 million in 2017-18 and $104 million in 2018-19, up from $97 million for 2016-17. This equates to an estimated per-student grant for our students of $1,140. The funds are allotted by sector, based on enrollment, to students of four-year public and private universities and career colleges.
OMACCS Executive Director Kent Trofholz testified before the Ohio House and Senate Committees, and advocacy efforts were also supported by member Greg Shields, Campus President at Daymar College in Columbus, who testified before both committees about the impact OCOG has on career college students and their ability to earn a degree and pursue good-paying jobs. Daymar graduate Erika Lewis and Fortis College graduate Brian Kulp told the panels how the grant was an essential piece of the financial aid puzzle that helped them attend college and achieve their career goals. We thank these advocates for taking time to prepare and present their testimony; they represented you very effectively. Executive Director Trofholz also shared recent research data that shows how career college graduates are filling many in-demand jobs in Ohio’s skilled workforce.
Special appreciation goes to members of the legislature who were particularly supportive of OCOG: Rep. Rick Perales and Sen. Randy Gardner, who chaired their chamber’s higher education budget committees, and House Speaker Cliff Rosenberger and Senate President Larry Obhof. If you live or work in their districts, please make a point of communicating your thanks.
Continued support for OCOG is never taken for granted, and we renew our fight every two years. The program is far from the $419,700 million it represented in 2008-2009, but it’s clear that legislators value OCOG as a means to opening classroom doors to those who need a hand up to succeed.
The state budget debate wasn’t without potential peril
OMACCS’ efforts were successful to beat back many negative policy initiatives. Earlier versions of the budget document contained measures which included the following:
Abolishment of the State Board of Career Colleges and Schools
Requirement that all career colleges obtain federal accreditation before state certification
Subject all career colleges to state audit oversight
Establish marketing prohibitions on career colleges.
These and other adversary provisions directed at all career colleges (not just those eligible for OCOG) would have had a chilling effect on industry in Ohio and the students we serve. Due to the grassroots advocacy efforts of our members and the lobbying services at the state capital all the negative provisions of bill were removed prior to its enactment.
Transferability of credits
Finally, a long-time legislative goal of OMACCS and its members was also included in the state’s higher education budget. Language contained in HB 49 instructs the Department of Higher Education to work with career college representatives to create a Strategic Plan for transferability of credits from career colleges to the public university system. The plan shall include policies, procedures, and timelines for authorizing transferability. The plan must be completed and submitted to the legislative leadership and the Governor on or before January 1, 2019.