Ohio’s College Comeback Compact offers students with outstanding debt a second chance to complete their degrees
Eight colleges and universities in northeast Ohio offer students who have dropped out and owe money to their former institution a way to resolve that debt and resume their college education at the same time. Eligible students are contacted this month to participate.
The program, billed as the first of its kind, is the Ohio College Comeback Compact, a multi-agency collaboration with financial and administrative support from public agencies and private funders, including Ithaka S+R, College Now Greater Cleveland , the Lumina Foundation, the Kresge Foundation and the Joyce Foundation. The program was piloted earlier this year.
The eight participating institutions are: Cleveland State University, Cuyahoga Community College, Kent State University, Lakeland Community College, Lorain County Community College, Stark State College, University of Akron and Youngstown State University.
Here’s how it works.
Students who attended one of the eight Compact colleges or universities but did not graduate and still owe money to their old school are eligible for the Compact.
Interested students first meet with an advisor to learn about their options. Students who then enroll in one of the Compact colleges or universities and complete a semester will have up to $2,500 in debt to their former college waived. Students can receive up to $5,000 in forgiveness by completing two semesters or earning a degree or certificate.
Once the full amount of debt (up to $5,000) is forgiven, the student’s former school releases their transcript. And, in one particularly useful feature of the program, participating institutions will forgive money their former students owe them, even if they re-enroll at another Compact college or university.
To qualify for debt forgiveness, students must complete at least one semester at a participating college or university and, during that semester, earn at least 6 credits toward an associate’s or college degree. a bachelor’s degree, or a designated certificate program approved by the school.
Here are some other program requirements and provisions:
- Only money that students owe directly to one of the eight participating colleges or universities (tuition and fees, library fines, parking tickets, etc.) is eligible for the rebate. Federal or state government loans, loans from private lenders, or debts owed to other colleges and universities are not eligible for Compact surrender.
- If a student only needs one semester of credit to earn a degree or certificate, the $5,000 will be waived in one semester.
- When a Compact student enrolls in a college or university different from the one they previously attended, the college enrolling the student will make an initial payment of $500 to the institution the student previously attended, followed by $250 payment for students continuing for a second semester.
Research from Ithaka S+R estimates that up to 6.6 million individuals nationwide have a problem with “stuck credits” – college credits that students have earned but cannot access because their former college holds their transcript as security for an outstanding balance to the institution.
Transcript holds can prevent students from re-enrolling, requesting their transcript for transfer to another college, or using it for employment purposes. According to Ithaka S+R, “blocked credits disproportionately affect students of color and those from lower socioeconomic backgrounds.”
It is estimated that Ohio has approximately 220,000 alumni facing the problem of blocked credits and approximately 60,000 live in northeast Ohio. It is expected that up to 15,000 students will be eligible for the Compact.
“The Ohio Department of Higher Education is committed to working with the outstanding public colleges and universities in northeast Ohio to make the Ohio College Comeback Compact a success,” said Randy Gardner , chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education, in Ithaka S+R. blog describing the program. “Ohio businesses need educated workers, and that need is growing with the unprecedented number of multinational corporations coming to our state. The goal of the Ohio College Comeback Compact is to encourage adults to return to college to complete their education so they can advance their careers in our growing economy.
Ohio’s College Comeback Compact is a great idea — a combination of generous policy, smart collaboration, and strategic goals. More states should follow his lead.