Ohio State students might see the cost of attending OSU drop because of the Commission to Rethink Access, organized by the Undergraduate Student Government and dedicated to addressing the issue of college affordability.
The Commission to Rethink Access, a group of at least six USG members, will focus on researching, formulating and presenting a list of recommendations to the USG president and vice president by Nov. 5 aiming to make OSU more affordable for students, USG President Taylor Stepp said.
“I see no issue better worth USG’s attention … our students here leave on average with $27,000 in debt,” Stepp said. “To me that is unacceptable. I think that we are doing our students a disservice when we saddle students with that much debt … it is frustrating to me that we have allowed ourselves to get to this point.”
For the 2013-14 academic year, tuition for in-state students is more than $10,000 per semester and nearly $26,000 for out-of-state students. Room and board costs $10,800 per semester for all on-campus students, according to the OSU Undergraduate Admissions website.
USG plans to turn its attention to the issue in the next few weeks, Stepp said.
The committee intends to focus on researching the issue as a whole, rather than looking at what other schools are doing, to try to find different ways to make OSU more affordable, said Michael Ringle, a fourth-year in political science and a member of the Commission to Rethink Access.
“We will be looking at some approaches taken by other universities, but frankly as a student body and a student government, Ohio State is well far in advance on student issues than most other universities of our caliber,” Ringle said. “We will be doing some independent research in regards to the debt that a lot of undergraduate students are compiling.”
Ringle added the commission will also be looking at possible funding solutions that could be enacted to decrease debt and will explore different expenditure approaches that could help mitigate the high cost of college for students.
Stepp was unsure about when USG will make these findings public.
“I would venture to say that these will be a part of my state (of the) university speech and I will be able to reveal them then,” Stepp said. “Hopefully, I will be able to make the findings public sometime in November.”
Stepp was not able to disclose the date of the speech.
“We are not ready to go public on the date and we also will not ready to fully commit that this will be in the speech,” Stepp said in an email. “There are still plenty of moving parts.”
The commission will be made of both appointed and elected USG members who will bring fresh perspectives to the issue, Stepp said over the phone.
“I wanted to include some more people to this conversation because frankly we need some new diverse and fresh perspectives on this,” Stepp said. “I think this group being as diverse as it is, and having the different experiences and visions that they each have from not only their own circumstances but what this university can be, is very powerful.”
Stepp said because many students can no longer work and pay their way through college, affordability is especially important.
“When I talk to students who are struggling to get by or who are working a job or two to make ends meet and are still saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of debt, it breaks my heart,” Stepp said. “Long gone are the days when you could work yourself through college.”
During an interview with The Lantern Sept. 23, OSU Interim President Joseph Alutto said he plans to work on affordability during his term.
“I’m very passionate about (affordability). I also know there are no clear answers, that what we’re doing is trying to balance this issue of access and excellence. So we can’t provide financial aid for everybody, that just doesn’t work, but really capable individuals who want to come to Ohio State should have a path,” he said.
Stepp said as a land grant institution, OSU must remain accessible to the middle class.
“We have to rethink access,” Stepp said. “We are a land grant-based institution, access is one of our founding principles. I think that we really need to rediscover what that access piece means and we need to think about it in terms of the middle class.”
A land grant institution is one that was designated by its state legislature or Congress to receive benefits of the Morrill Acts of 1862 and 1890. The original intent was for the schools to teach agriculture, military tactics and mechanics, as well as classical studies.
Some OSU students agreed college costs should be decreased.
“It could be more affordable,” said Kaitlyn Sturgeon, a first-year in exploration. “It was affordable enough for me to go here, but I know some other people that had to go to community college from where I’m from because they did not have enough money to come here.”
Brad Alexander, a first-year in physics, said he thinks affordability is often a considering factor for students while choosing a school.
“I can personally afford it and I am going to have debt afterwards, but it doesn’t mean everyone can afford it,” Alexander said. “I think affordability is a qualifier for a lot of people on which colleges they can go to. The more affordable you can make it, the more diverse your population will become and it creates a whole new dynamic.”
Stepp said he has a couple key goals he would like to see the commission address.
“We have to get a grip on the high costs that we are charging students to go to the Ohio State University … I want to come out and put forth some recommendations,” Stepp said. “I want to implement these recommendations to not only help students plan, but to have a lower cost college experience and to leave with less debt.”