Career College Students Feel Pinch

One casualty of Ohio budget cuts could be state financial aid to students at for-profit career colleges.

With the state facing a budget gap that could reach $3 billion during the next two years, need-based funding for more than 22,000 students statewide at schools including Kaplan College and National College appears unlikely.

Those students include Belinda Shuler of Mount Healthy, who is pursuing an associate's degree in accounting at National College in Bond Hill. She has gotten as much as $4,000 a year in state funds toward total tuition of nearly $10,000 a year.

"It can be very hard if you don't have the loans in place to help you," said Shuler, 47, who is on her third degree program at National. "You have a lot of help here. Some of those other colleges are pretty big."

Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut originally proposed restricting the Ohio College Opportunity Grant to state universities and community colleges, with corresponding block grants for both for-profit schools and non-profit private schools. The entire program totaled about $350 million during the last two-year budget cycle, with about $107 million of that going to career-school students, according to the Ohio Association of Career Colleges and Schools.

As the budget has been cut, those funds have been cut in half to $171 million for the next two years. State officials say the distribution is yet to be decided as different versions of the state budget swirl through both houses of the General Assembly.

But it's clear that state universities and community colleges will be the top priority, followed by non-profit private schools such as Xavier University and the College of Mount St. Joseph.

They aren't the only ones being cut. Officials at private colleges are trying to preserve funding for the Ohio Choice Grant, which awarded about $640 per student and is not based on financial need.

And as projections for the deficit have worsened, even the core funding for public universities is on the block. If the subsidies are cut, those universities are likely to try to raise tuition after a two-year tuition freeze for Ohio undergraduates.

Advocates of career colleges say they graduate nearly 40 percent of all two-year students in the state, including the non-traditional, low-income students that they say state officials should be encouraging to go to college.

For example, at Kaplan College in Queensgate, about three-quarters of the students are low-income and eligible for the federal Pell Grant program.

"The students who are doing this on their own, they're getting cut out," said Bill Bradford, executive director of Kaplan's local campus in Queensgate. (Cincinnati.com)

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