Ohio State has a plan to write off student loan debt: NPR

An aerial photo of The Oval on campus at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Terry Gilliam / AP


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Terry Gilliam / AP


An aerial photo of The Oval on campus at Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Terry Gilliam / AP

Ohio State University is launched an ambitious 10-year plan to raise $ 800 million to remove all loans from financial aid packages given to students.

“It’s not free college, it’s not free tuition,” says Kristina Johnson, president of Ohio State, “but can we take one of the largest universities in the country and develop roads for our students so they can graduate debt-free?”

The school, which graduates more than 8,000 students a year, says about half of those students graduate with debt. On average, graduates leave university and owe about $ 27,000, an amount that is in line with national averages for students completing a bachelor’s degree.

“We’ve surveyed our students, and what they’re telling us is that with $ 27,000 in average debt, they make choices they would not otherwise have made. They do not go to post-secondary school, serve their community, buy a house, “says Johnson. “We want people to follow their passions, what they are really interested in, because we know that when they do, they will be most successful, satisfied, happy and content.”

Not the first, but perhaps the greatest

The debt elimination plan would cost Ohio State about $ 110 million a year, given to students through scholarships, job opportunities and paid internships. Philanthropy will be the biggest part of the initiative, but Johnson said the university is also working with state lawmakers to increase student support.

The Ohio State initiative follows the efforts of other universities in recent years, but most have been to smaller, more selective schools, like Amherst College in Massachusetts, and among Ivy League. Ohio State is one of the largest universities in the country with more than 40,000 students.

While there are more than six dozen high schools offering low-income families a path to a debt-free bachelor experience, far fewer have made it a policy for all students, regardless of income. In 2018, Johns Hopkins University in Maryland received a $ 1.8 billion grant from alum Michael Bloomberg, the former mayor of New York City, to replace college scholarship loans.

The Ohio State initiative seems to be the biggest attempt by a state university to do this. “The question is: Can it be done on a scale?” says Johnson. “That’s what I’m super excited about. We want to do it on a large scale.”

The Columbus-based flagship campus also brings together students from Ohio’s regional campuses across the state, expanding the promise of influencing a much larger number of students.

The plan would begin with a pilot program for 125 future beginners next fall, will be expanded to include all students over the next decade.

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