Dubbed the “Scarlet & Gray Advantage” program, Ohio State University will offer undergraduates the chance to graduate debt-free after four years.
To offer a debt-free bachelor’s degree within a decade, Ohio State University says it will raise $800 million for student scholarships. It will expand work and training programs allowing students to gain experience while earning a salary. The plans call for assistance in the form of grants; and expanding training in financial education, leadership and business skills.
Ohio State University President Christina M. Johnson on the initiative.
“At Ohio, we’re building a new path to the American dream that will empower students to take control of their own financial future,” she said. The Scarlet & Gray Advantage will allow thousands of Buckeyes in the future the opportunity to obtain their degrees debt-free.
Based on enrollment, Ohio ranks third among US universities with 61,369 students as of 2020/21 on its campus in Columbus, Ohio, according to WorldAtlas.com.
Although other colleges offer various scholarship programs to cover tuition costs, Ohio State believes it is the first large university to offer a debt forgiveness option in exchange for a student’s overall costs, Fox Business News reports.
Students will have to do their part. They must commit to graduating within four years and enrolling in financial literacy education. Students or their families must fill out financial forms each year.
Slightly less than half of Ohio’s students graduate with debt, Johnson said, averaging about $27,000 based on last year’s class. She added that debt is forcing students to make different career choices, ranging from giving up their dream job to graduating from graduate school to not buying a home.
“In the end, you’ll be more successful at what you’re passionate about, no matter what it drives,” Johnson said. “We just want them to have equal opportunity.”
Nationally, student loan debt has reached $1.73 trillion and remains a long-standing problem for both current and former student borrowers. Some observers claim that low-income students – often black borrowers – are hardest hit by outstanding debt.
Ohio State will test its program next fall with 125 low- and middle-income students with a goal of applying it fully within 10 years. However, Johnson emphasized that it is not a free education or a free college. “It will, in my view, reward any student with the opportunity to realize the American dream,” she said.