On Sep. 18, The College of Wooster announced that it was implementing a “Tuition Free Guarantee” for students who are eligible for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG).
OCOG is administered by the Ohio Department of Higher Education which, according to its website, “provides grant money to Ohio residents who demonstrate the highest levels of financial need (as determined by the results of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) that should be completed) who are enrolled at Ohio public colleges or universities, Ohio private, non-profit colleges or universities and Ohio private, for-profit institutions.”
Wooster students from Ohio with an expected family contribution of $2,190 or less and a maximum household income of $96,000 are eligible. Instead of only receiving some aid, the College now guarantees that forthcoming eligible students will have the full cost of tuition covered with grants and scholarships due to the contributions from alumni.
Wayne Webster, vice president for Advancement, spoke about when this became a priority and how Wooster now compares to other colleges and universities.
“Our commitment to affordability and accessibility is long-standing and goes back to our founding in 1866, [but] this particular initiative was identified as a priority this summer,” Webster stated. “We are committed to making The College of Wooster’s world-class liberal arts education accessible for all Ohioans. By establishing the “Tuition Free Guarantee” for new students who are eligible for the [OCOG], we are proud to tout that Wooster’s cost is now virtually identical to public schools for eligible students.”
Director of Financial Aid Dana Kennedy, whose office is part of the Enrollment team that reviews and implements new policies like this regularly, acknowledged the role of previous Wooster students. “Thanks to our generous and loyal alumni donation, we were able to implement this new policy,” she said.
Expanding on where these donations come from, Webster explained, “Approximately 25 percent of our annual revenues come from annual gifts through the Wooster Fund ($3.5 million annually) and endowment earnings. A significant amount of those funds have been restricted by the donors, or by the College, for student scholarships. Those funds, along with new gifts received for financial aid, can help with the [“Tuition Free Guarantee”].”
When asked how many students stand to benefit from this new program, Kennedy stated, “There isn’t an easy answer to this question, as the population of students who apply to Wooster changes annually. The hope is there will be an increase in this population who might not have otherwise been able to attend Wooster but would be an excellent fit in the community.”
While this policy will benefit students who fill out the FAFSA by the Oct. 1 deadline — both current and prospective students — it leaves out students who currently qualify for OCOG that would have otherwise been eligible for the “Tuition Free Guarantee”. “We understand there are times students will benefit and unfortunately times they won’t,” Kennedy said when questioned about this dilemma.
Overall, the goal of the College in implementing this guarantee is to allow students the same ability to access Wooster’s education regardless of background.
“Each year, approximately 30 percent of Wooster students come from the state of Ohio. Our commitment to recruiting the best and brightest in state without regard to socio-economic status remains as strong as ever,” Webster said. “As demographics shift in Ohio and across the Midwest, The College of Wooster sees it as our mission to continue to do all we can to ensure we remain an affordable option for most families.”