College affordability: A defining issue of our time

Michael V. Drake, MD
President


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With student loan debt in the United States standing at more than $1.16 trillion, President Michael V. Drake shares his vision for making higher education more affordable for everyone.


For more than 140 years, The Ohio State University has been a leader in teaching the best minds and bringing forth innovations in science, agriculture, medicine and other fields to help solve our world's greatest challenges. Today, we focus on our continued leadership in addressing one of the most important and pressing issues of our time: making the cost of higher education more affordable.

We must do this for students like Ari Toles and thousands like him.

Ari, a political science major, is the first member of his family to graduate from college. Ari's goal is to be an educator, and to help other first-generation college students earn their diplomas. A scholarship made it possible for this Columbus City Schools alumnus to achieve his dream of becoming a Buckeye.

When I meet and talk with students such as Ari, I am inspired. They reaffirm my commitment to ensuring that students I see crossing the Oval are not worried about how to pay for their college education.

According to recent federal figures, student loan debt in the United States stands at more than $1.16 trillion. That is why we are taking action.

For the coming academic year, undergraduates from Ohio will see no increase in their tuition or room and board. This is the first comprehensive action, in at least 40 years, freezing all in-state costs. As a result of Ohio State's unique circumstances, we are in a position to hold fees this year, understanding that this course of action might not be right or possible for our partners in higher education.

We have arrived at this decision based on careful deliberations and discussions on and off campus. In particular, I have valued the leadership shown by Gov. John Kasich, Senate President Keith Faber and Speaker of the House Cliff Rosenberger, in addition to the active participation of our academic and administrative leaders here on campus.

This cost freeze is part of a broader effort to address affordability in higher education. We recently announced a plan to generate an additional $100 million for grants and scholarships by 2020.

This fall, $15 million in aid will be added to our need-based scholarship pool to provide greater financial assistance to lower and middle-income students.

These efforts are key building blocks in our recently announced $400 million investment in both affordability and teaching and research excellence. I've directed university leadership to focus on generating half of these funds through efficiencies. The other half will come from partnerships and innovative funding strategies that don't rely on tax dollars.

We're committing to freezing costs as the first step in advancing our university. In addition, this summer we will hold an affordability summit, where we will study this issue closely and seek other ways of addressing this challenge for our students and their families. As always, when examining costs and efficiencies, we will measure our progress against our commitment to the excellence that defines Ohio State for our faculty, students and staff.

Keeping college affordable is everyone's concern. By providing an affordable path to an outstanding college education, the Buckeye State can continue to attract and support businesses seeking to plant roots and grow where there is a talented and well-trained workforce. Recently, the governor demonstrated his commitment to reducing college costs by announcing the creation of the Ohio Task Force on Affordability and Efficiency in Higher Education. Ohio State is committed to working with him and this task force, sharing ideas, best practices and solutions for reining in the costs of higher education.

Ohio State is an affordability leader. We have increased institutional aid by 54 percent in the last five years, frozen in-state tuition rates for undergraduate students since 2013 and held mandatory fees steady for five years. Our cost of tuition and mandatory fees, for both in-state and out-of-state students, are among the lowest in the Big Ten. In fact, 44 percent of our students graduate with no debt.

But I believe we can do better — for our students, their families and the entire state of Ohio.

While we work as a nation on long-term solutions, Ohio State is digging deeper to stem costs for those who proudly wear the scarlet and gray. Our mission as a land-grant university demands it, and our students and their families deserve nothing less.

This originally appeared in The Plain Dealer and the Ohio State Alumni magazine.


About the author

Michael V. Drake, MD
Michael V. Drake, MD - drake.379@osu.edu
President

Dr. Michael V. Drake began his tenure as Ohio State‚Äôs 15th president on June 30, 2014. An ophthalmologist by training, President Drake served as a university leader, professor and physician-scientist for more than three decades with the University of California system, most recently as chancellor of the University of California, Irvine.

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