As Ohio college students don their caps and gowns this month, many will leave school with mountains of debt for four-year degrees. In fact, Ohio families and students face the highest burden of student loan debt in the nation, with the Buckeye State ranking 45th nationally for college affordability. With college out of reach for too many families and students, state Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain) today introduced legislation to cover 90 percent of the cost for students to attend public college in Ohio. The Ohio Lets Everyone Achieve Right Now (LEARN) tax credit would make Ohio the first state to make college truly affordable for all students.
“Our economy increasingly demands a college degree, but for many Ohioans, college remains unaffordable. Simply freezing tuition that is already unaffordable isn’t a long-term solution to make college more accessible. Something has to change,” said Rep. Ramos. “Families and students shouldn’t have to mortgage their future to pay for college. The Ohio LEARN program would allow graduates to focus on their careers and pursuing their dreams upon graduation—not managing decades of crippling debt.”
Currently, colleges and universities are required by the federal government to report their full cost of education. Each potential student seeking aide must also complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA). Using education cost and FAFSA information, federal officials produce an Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which represents the maximum a family could potentially pay out of pocket for a student to attend college. The EFC factors in a number of variables such as savings, income and siblings. A student’s EFC is then used to determine eligibility for loans and direct aid.
The Ohio LEARN tax credit would create an individualized, refundable tax credit covering the full Cost of Attendance (COA) including tuition, room & board, books, etc., spread out over 10 years, subtracting aid or scholarships received, and subtracting 10% of a students (EFC). Students would ultimately be responsible for 10 percent of their EFC, ensuring an equitable amount of skin in the game for each student.
The Ohio LEARN program would be available after each taxable year for students paying cash, or when loans become due for students financing their education. The tax credit would go to the payer. If the student pays or finances their education themselves, they would receive the tax benefit. If parents pay, they will receive the benefit under the program.
Ramos’s proposal is currently awaiting a bill number and committee assignment in the House.