Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) today urged Ohio’s top higher education official for ways to improve college access for students from working-class families following a new study that singles out seven Ohio colleges for alarmingly low rates of Pell grant recipients.
Rep. Ingram called the findings “disturbing,’’ and sent a letter to Ohio Chancellor Randy Gardner asking that he assess the adequacy of college access at the seven institutions and provide an explanation for their low levels of Pell Grant student enrollment as compared to peer colleges.
“To my mind and I hope yours, college access, affordability, quality, and student body diversity go hand-in-hand,” Rep. Ingram wrote.
Released today by Education Reform Now, the study singled out Case Western Reserve University, Kenyon College, Oberlin College, Miami University, The Ohio State University, the College of Wooster and the University of Dayton.
Rep. Ingram, the top Democrat on the House Higher Education Committee, discussed her concerns at a Wednesday press conference with the report’s author, James Murphy, a Senior Policy Analyst at the non-profit think tank, Education Reform Now.
“Ohio colleges have a historic and prominent place in higher education, and Ohio should be proud of that place,’’ Murphy said, “but that place is at risk if inequality takes root in the very universities and colleges that for generations have been the most powerful tool we have had for promoting social mobility.’’
Murphy’s analysis calculated three-year averages for the share of enrolled students receiving federal Pell grants, which typically goes to students with household incomes less than $60,000, and it examined the number of students who received Ohio College Opportunity Grants (OCOG), which are limited to families whose expected contribution to the cost of college is less than $2,190.
While approximately 30 percent of students in the U.S. receive Pell grants, at the schools identified in the report, the share of Pell recipients is less than 20 percent. At Kenyon and Oberlin, not even 10 percent of incoming students received Pell grants, which ranked sixth and seventh worst in America. The report also indicated Miami has the second lowest Pell Grant student enrollment in the country among public colleges.
In addition, the report recommends a public service fee – similar to the recently enacted federal endowment tax – charged to colleges with indefensibly low Pell Grant student enrollment levels. Revenue generated by the service fee would be directed to the OCOG program. Ingram is currently reviewing the recommendation and urges Chancellor Gardner to consider it and all other proposals to ensure greater access to college for students with low-incomes.