University President Michael Drake announced during the State of the University Address Thursday afternoon that Ohio State is on course to increase the president’s affordability grant program by $5 million next academic year.
This expansion, added to grants announced by the president last July, would create a total of $20 million in need-based financial aid through the grant program.
Next year’s grants will provide aid to about 15,700 undergraduates, including more than 3,000 students at OSU regional campuses, Drake said. This addition would bring a two-year total of $35 million in affordability grants.
“We are honoring our promise of access to an affordable education — not at the expense of our academic and research excellence, but by operating a more efficient and innovative university,” he said.
The address, held at the William B. Saxbe Law Auditorium, touched on a variety of topics but focused on college affordability.
“I want to re-emphasize that balancing affordability and excellence is both complicated and critical,” he said. “The result is an increase in value. It’s not simply about tuition. It involves decreasing time to graduation, identifying ways to help more students succeed, increasing scholarships and aid and being evermore effective and efficient in our operations.”
After announcing the affordability grant increase, Drake was briefly interrupted by a group of students from United Students Against Sweatshops. Drake acknowledged their comments then quickly returned to his address.
The college affordability announcement is in line with several initiatives started in 2015. In June, the university announced a cost freeze on tuition, fees and room and board for all Ohio undergraduate students.
Drake also pointed to the Wexner Medical Center as an “example of a strategy that has improved efficiency and excellence,” adding that the medical center has been ranked among the top 13 academic medical centers in the country for the third straight year and has seen more than a $20 million increase in cash balances in less than two years.
“For years, our reserves were modest, below industry norms for excellence,” he said. “As our reserves improve, we are in a much stronger position to plan for the future.”
Funding from resource generation and efficiencies are planned to be allocated and reinvested into three areas: financial aid, new strategies for future development, and support for faculty, staff and academic programs, Drake said.
“We cannot talk about access, affordability and excellence without focusing on the transformational research and teaching of our truly outstanding faculty,” he said. “Our teaching and research missions are fundamental to who we are, and we are moving forward in both spheres.”
In Drake’s University Address last spring, the main focus was expanding financial aid and increasing diversity at OSU. This year, Drake said it was promising to see the university’s diversity rise along with its academic profile, and added that OSU “will continue to press forward.”
“Our newest class was the most talented and diverse in university history, with record-high enrollments among Hispanic and first-generation students,” he said.
Drake also recognized OSU as being among the top 25 friendliest colleges in the country for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender students by the Washington Post, in the top 10 for study abroad experiences by the 2015 Open Doors Report and the No. 1 university in the U.S. for veterans by USA Today.
Last week’s announcement of the new contract with Nike was acknowledged among the universities achievements as well. This announcement included new initiatives worth $40 million that will be used outside of athletics, including internships and scholarships for undergraduates.
Drake finished his address by recognizing the university’s achievements over the past year.
“It has been a great year: including record applications and the most talented and diverse class in our history … record fundraising and on pace to set a new record this coming year … outstanding international recognition of our research and creative faculty,” he said. “It is a great privilege to be with you. Ohio State uplifts communities, inspires minds and changes lives. We can’t imagine a world without The Ohio State University.”