As a first generation student, college represented two things tome: an opportunity to grow, and a burden to avoid. The rising costs of the student debt crisis continues to scare new generations of college-graduates and incoming freshman every year, but Ohio State isn’t sitting idle to this problem. Sure, they’re a large four-year research institution so they’re a part of the problem. But over the years they’ve also made it clear they’re looking to be a part of the solution.
The Pell Grant
For students who come from low-income families in the state ofOhio, one of the biggest breaths of relief they’ll get this year is the first time they see “Pell Grant” applied to their tuition statement. ThePell Grant is a federally funded grant distributed to students from low-income families who keep up satisfactory grades throughout the year. This fund levels the playing field for students who simply don’t have the financial opportunity other students do to consider college after high school, and the difference between having the fund and not having it is–simply put–a future.
The Pell Grant, however, does not cover all tuition costs, only a fraction of them. The burden of high college costs still loomed over the heads of students like me until September 2017, when Ohio State came out with a big announcement and victory for higher education accessibility. Whatever tuition costs are left after the Pell Grant is applied, the university will now cover for all students who qualify for it. The only costs students have to bear are for housing, food, and textbooks. Go Bucks!
Two-Year Live-On Requirement
However, in 2016 the university introduced its first year mandating that sophomores live on campus. All of the residence halls on campus are around $1,000 a month in living costs, and that doesn’t include the dining plan or any student activity fees. Some off-campus rentals can be as low as $300 for students, but mandating that students stay on campus their second year runs them dry of even more funds and requires them to take out more loans just to satisfy the requirement. You can see how a mandate like this feels like a step back for accessibility.
At the same time, Ohio State’s goal seemed to be well-intentioned. With the introduction of the two-year live-on requirement came STEP, the second-year transformational experience program, where students can apply for up to $2,000 for anything relating to academic or professional development. Students in the past have used the funds for study abroad trips, rent to cover out-of-state internships, even cross-country road trips to work on their photography skills. While living on campus was supposed to improve student retention by keeping students involved with student organizations or late-night workshops with professors, it did bring a huge financial burden with it. STEP soothed the burn by moving those would-be saved funds back into the personal development machine for students.
iPads, iPads, iPads
Freshmen in the 2018 class were the first ones to receive an iPad at orientation along with their upperclassmen best friend in a darling red polo. While free iPads with Adobe apps and snap-on keyboards made every upperclassmen bitter for not getting one, the truth is this is probably Ohio State’s biggest move for accessibility. Laptops are the unspoken-mandatory college checklist item, and if you don’t want it to breakdown in two years, the costs are looking between $400 to $1,300 to purchase one.Students who rely on campus’ one 24-hour library (SEL) for a computer are screwed during high-traffic times of year like finals and midterms.
With an iPad in their bag from day one, incoming freshmen are as prepared as they can be to compete with their classmates, even if they don’t come from a competitive background. This also allows all students the chance to be familiar with Apple products and design-related programs before they graduate, two huge resume boosters for anyone in our generation applying for large companies that require familiarity with this technology. At the end of the day, Ohio State is one of a long list of institutions ruining the financial futures of its alumni, but it’s also the line-leader for universities looking to change that harsh truth little-by-little to the belief that education should be accessible for anyone.