Guest Column / DeWine’s Proposal Will Make the Workforce Grow | News, sports, jobs

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Ohio is on the move, and we are showing the world once again that the combination of knowledge, strong pro-growth policies, and world-class higher education can stimulate economic growth and create jobs. Just in the past year, massive new projects from Intel, Honda and others have validated this approach and our nation’s leaders deserve credit for helping make it happen.

Governor Mike DeWine’s latest budget proposal has the right ingredients to keep Ohio ahead with its strong focus on learning, especially in higher education.

One of the most prominent proposals in the budget is the Ohio University College Opportunity Scholarship, which will receive an additional $337 million in funding over the next two years. This will increase the eligibility threshold for students from families with incomes of $87,000 and nearly double the award amounts per student.

The bottom line: More Ohio students will be able to attend the college of their choice, Ohio’s workforce will grow, and our state will become more competitive.

OCOG is Ohio’s Primary Needs-Based Aid Program, providing financial assistance to low-to-moderate-income students to attend college in the state. This funding increase is an important step toward ensuring that all Ohio students have access to higher education, regardless of their financial background. DeWine’s budget proposal also includes creating a new merit-based scholarship program that would provide students who finish in the top 5 percent of their school’s graduating class an additional $5,000 annually if they attend an Ohio college or university. In addition, the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program, which focuses on talent retention and STEM education, will receive an increase of $2 million each fiscal year to reach $32 million annually by the end of the biennium.

These investments in education and scholarship are essential to Ohio’s future economic growth and workforce development. As Ohio Secretary of Higher Education Gardner said, “By supporting Ohio students, we give ourselves the best possible chance of keeping them in Ohio to take advantage of our accreditation and degree offerings, and then thrive in Ohio’s emerging economy.”

Investing in Ohio State students is a long-term strategy that will benefit the state’s economy and its citizens for years to come.

As President of Otterbein University, I am excited about these new efforts to expand learning opportunities to more Ohio students. It’s the right thing and very much in line with how Otterbein approaches its mission. Starting this fall, Otterbein will provide all full-time freshmen who receive an Ohio College Opportunity Grant and a federal Pell Scholarship with a combination of Otterbein Scholarships and Grants that cover the balance of tuition costs—no loans. This initiative, called Otterbein’s Commitment to Complete Study Needs, is a bold step to ensure that students from low-income families receive a high-quality education without the burden of student debt.

To be clear, this commitment would be impossible without continued state and federal commitments to needs-based assistance programs like the OCOG and Pell Grants. Providing funding to students does not increase the cost of education, but rather opens the doors of higher education to outstanding and deserving students.

The governor’s budget proposal should be commended for prioritizing education and scholarships. An investment in Ohio State students is an investment in the state’s future. Let’s hope the budget proposal is passed and implemented, so that Ohio students can prosper and lead Ohio into a prosperous future.

(Comerford is president of Otterbein College).

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