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COLUMBUS – Low- and moderate-income students at Ohio State’s five regional campuses soon will have unprecedented support to cover the cost of their tuition and mandatory fees.

Starting in spring 2019, the university will commit up to $3 million a year in additional financial aid to meet the tuition and mandatory fee needs of regional campus students who are from Ohio, qualify for federal Pell Grants and have successfully begun their college career. To be eligible, students must have successfully completed the equivalent of at least one semester and initiated or completed a student-success course.

The Buckeye Opportunity Program, which is expected to benefit 3,000 students on the Columbus campus this fall, was announced in September. A pilot expansion of the program, announced on Friday, will support an additional 1,200 students in Lima, Mansfield, Marion, Newark and at the Agricultural Technical Institute in Wooster.

“Our campuses throughout Ohio are vital to the ways we provide ever-increasing access to an affordable and excellent Buckeye education,” said President Michael V. Drake.

“Expanding our tuition-coverage program will help ensure even more Ohio families have the opportunity to advance their lives and communities through higher education.”

Area educators are excited as well, particularly given the strong relationship many have with the OSU-Lima campus. “This is a wonderful opportunity, particularly for graduates in northwest Ohio,” says Nick Verhoff, Superintendent of Columbus Grove Schools. “As a school district which is less than a 30 minute commute to the OSU-Lima campus, we see a fair number of Columbus Grove graduates attend this branch campus each year. OSU Lima has been a key post-secondary school for our graduates for

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decades, and this new financial assistance to branch campuses will only strengthen that connection our district’s graduates have with OSU Lima.”

For more than a few, this connection is personal as well. “I was encouraged to attend the Lima Campus of OSU by the late Ms. Virginia Zirkle, former OSU extension agent, who impacted the lives of thousands of Putnam County students like myself,” states Dr. Jan Osborne, Superintendent of Schools with the Educational Service Center. “The Lima Campus was not only affordable, but provided many [in the area] with a very high quality college education…If not for the opportunity to attend the Lima Campus, I don’t know where I would be today.”

Ohio State has committed more than $100 million in additional need-based aid since 2015, well exceeding Drake’s stated goal of reaching that number by 2020. Expanding the Buckeye Opportunity Program to all regional campuses is the latest step in Ohio State’s commitment to providing greater access, affordability and excellence for students and families — a key element of the university’s Time and Change strategic plan.

As regional campuses are open access, the implementation of the program is being customized to ensure its sustainability and to reflect the dynamics of the student bodies.

To participate, Pell-eligible students on regional campuses must be enrolled full time, have completed a full-time course load toward an Ohio State degree, and have successfully completed the University Survey course or be enrolled in the course for spring 2019. The course, required of all undergraduates in the first term of enrollment, is designed to help students assess their interests and plan their progress toward a degree.

Students will receive more information about the Buckeye Opportunity Program and notification about financial aid awards prior to spring semester 2019.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, 90 percent of Pell recipients have an annual household income of $50,000 or less. The Buckeye Opportunity Program will use institutional aid to cover any gap that remains after federal and state aid are applied toward Spring 2019 tuition and mandatory fees at regional campuses.