John Michael Spinelli | Columbus Government Examiner
On a clear, hot, 90-degree day in Columbus, Ed FitzGerald, the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate for governor this midterm election year, unveiled the College Affordability Plan, a major higher education proposal that includes vocational training and is designed to return Ohio to quality, affordable higher education.
FitzGerald joined parents, students, educators and young professionals who gathered on the campus of Columbus State Community College, where he contrasted his plan with actions taken by first-term Republican Gov. John Kasich that reduced state spending on higher education, forcing many of the Buckeye State’s stable of universities and colleges to pump up tuition to cover the gap Kasich left when he withheld billions in order to claim he balanced a state budget without raising taxes.
Rising tuition costs, which are being born by students through debt terms that are unforgiving, are to FitzGerald like rising taxes are at the local level, the natural consequences of Gov. Kasich’s balancing of his state budget by withholding state assistance to local governments, schools and now institutions of higher education. Gov. Kasich believes with little proof to back him up that income tax cuts create jobs, even though Ohio’s future is tied to the education and training of its future workforce, which as graduating seniors are leaving the state to attend less costly colleges in other states.
Watch 60 Seconds Ohio and hear FitzGerald discuss his plan and answer reporter questions.
FitzGerald spoke of the importance of college affordability, being forced for much the media availability event to speak over the din of idling buses at a near by bus top and a rumbling Brinks Truck stopped at the traffic light at the intersection. “As a parent with two sons in college and two daughters in high school, I understand the financial challenges facing Ohio’s families with increasing tuition costs. As Governor, I will work to ensure college and post secondary education is quality and affordable. When Ohio’s students pay tuition, they should be paying for a world-class education.”
The FitzGerald plan made public today contains three parts: 1. Expanding the college savings program, model on one he started in Cuyahoga County, to the entire state. Unique in the nation, FitzGerald in his capacity as the Executive for Cuyahoga County, Ohio’s most populous county, it creates college savings accounts for new Ohio kindergartners. A 2010 study shows that children with college savings accounts are seven times more likely to attend college than those without. 2. Restore funds to the Ohio College Opportunity Grant to help high school students and young adults afford college without having to take out massive loans. Ohio residents owe $3.75 billion in Federal Student Loans, the FitzGerald campaign notes, making the case that it hurts the economy and threatens youth’s future. 3. Advocate for state legislation to allow graduates and former students to refinance their student loans.
Larry Christman, a former State Representative and education reform advocate, was on hand for the announcement today. “The state must return to a leadership role in helping students achieve their goals. It is essential that we make college more affordable so Ohio residents can receive their education and achieve their goals,” he said.
Others not present who nonetheless expressed their opinion include U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown, who said, “It is crucial that we make college more affordable for Ohio’s students. Ed FitzGerald’s plan will not only assist Ohioans in achieving their goals, but it will also make Ohio a more desirable place to raise families and start businesses.” In the last ten days, the bill aimed at tackling student debt, which now tops $1 trillion nationwide, sponsored by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and that got a vote from Sen. Brown, a Democrat, was defeated when 37 Republicans including Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman voted against it.
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman said in prepared remarks that expanding early college programs offers “first-generation college students a leg-up and cost savings to attend college upon graduation.” Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley, who won her last race with 50-plus percent of the vote, said every child deserves the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and Ohio should be a place where that can happen.
U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur, one of dwindling number of Democratic Congressman, calls FitzGerald’s college savings plan a much-needed investment in Ohio’s future.
Students also voiced their hopes. Taylor Meyers, Marietta College Student Body President, said, “Making college more affordable is critical in allowing me and other students to pursue our career goals without fear of shouldering crippling debt upon graduation.” Benjamin Lynn, University of Toledo student, said, “The increase in college tuition over the last few years has been a huge burden to me and so many other students . It’s just common sense that when we’re facing higher debt than ever that student aid should increase as well. He agrees with FitzGerald that more financial aid show be flowing to students immediately.
Behind in money and name recognition to the well-funded and well-known Kasich, FitzGerald’s plan hopes to capture some traction with voters, whose enthusiasm for midterm election politics is down. Gov. Kasich hasn’t done nearly enough to stop it, FitzGerald’s campaign Nick Buis told reporters via email, but he awaits expected attacks from Republicans, who he said will try to attack this plan as frivolous or too expensive.
“But we know this plan is key to putting the American Dream within reach for thousands of Ohio families,” Buis said.
A copy of the plan is available HERE
What Ohio is Saying About FitzGerald’s College Affordability Plan
Cleveland Plain Dealer: FitzGerald pitches college savings accounts, student loan relief in plan for higher education: “Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald on Wednesday unveiled a plan to make college more affordable for Ohioans and bolster access to higher education. In a news conference at Columbus State Community College, FitzGerald, a Democrat and the Cuyahoga County executive, said the plan is intended to address challenges students and their families have to meet the growing costs of tuition.”
Cincinnati Enquirer: FitzGerald: $100 into college accounts for all: “Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald Wednesday proposed the state start a $100 college savings account for every kindergarten student in Ohio. The proposal would cost about $20 million a year and help make college more affordable, FitzGerald said Wednesday in Columbus. He did not say how he would pay for the plan, although he ruled out raising taxes.”
Toledo Blade: FitzGerald wants to help Ohioans pay for college: “Arguing that Ohio is losing ground when it comes to an affordable college education, the Democratic candidate for governor on Wednesday called for the creation of college savings accounts for every kindergartner in the state. Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald said he would also boost support for financial aid and make it easier for graduates to refinance college debt. He said these investments should be made before the state pursues more tax cuts.”
Columbus Dispatch: FitzGerald proposes to cut cost of college: “Democrat Ed FitzGerald rolled out a plan yesterday to make college more affordable in Ohio, while across the state GOP Gov. John Kasich said he’s already working on it. FitzGerald wants to put $100 in a college savings account for every Ohio kindergartner next year and provide an additional $160 million in state financial aid for current college students.”
Wooster Daily Record: FitzGerald Wants to Expand College Savings Program to All Ohio Students: “Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants to expand a college savings program he started in the Cleveland area to include all Ohio youngsters. The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful also wants to increase state aid to needy college enrollees and find a way to allow Ohio students to refinance their school loans.”
Aurora Advocate: Democratic Gubernatorial hopeful Ed FitzGerald presents plan to make college more affordable in Ohio, GOP reacts: “Cuyahoga County Executive Ed FitzGerald wants expand a college savings program he started in the Cleveland area to include all Ohio youngsters. The Democratic gubernatorial hopeful also wants to increase state aid to needy college enrollees and find a way to allow Ohio students to refinance their school loans.”
Cincinnati CityBeat: “Democratic candidate for Governor Ed FitzGerald unveiled his plan for affordable higher education yesterday. FitzGerald’s proposal includes finding ways to lower administrative costs at the state’s colleges, increasing the availability of financial aide, expanding a college savings plan, getting more students into early college enrollment while they’re still in high school, and boosting community colleges and trade schools. Fitzgerald cited the nearly $4 billion in student loan debt Ohioans carry as a reason to lower college costs.”
WCPN: FitzGerald Wants to Take Kindergarten College Savings Plan Statewide if Elected: “Democrat Ed FitzGerald’s plan includes restoring need-based college funding programs that were in place before Republican Gov. John Kasich took office. FitzGerald also wants to establish a college savings account for every kindergartner in the state. FitzGerald said he’s already doing that in Cuyahoga County where he serves as the executive.”
WYSO: FitzGerald Campaign Targets Student Debt: “Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor Sharen Neuhardt is speaking at Sinclair Community College Thursday afternoon about Ed FitzGerald’s platform on higher education. Neuhardt says if FitzGerald is elected governor, he will establish a fund that helps Ohio students begin saving for college in kindergarten. FitzGerald, currently the Cuyahoga County Executive, launched a program last month that starts a college savings account for every Cuyahoga County kindergartner.”
WCBE: FitzGerald Unveils College Affordability Plan: “Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ed FitzGerald has unveiled a plan to make college more affordable. Republicans say that plan would be a burden on taxpayers. Ohio Public Radio’s Jo Ingles has details. Democrat Ed FitzGerald’s plan includes restoring need based college funding programs that were in place before Republican Governor John Kasich took office. FitzGerald also wants to establish a college savings account for every kindergartner in the state. FitzGerald says he’s already doing that in Cuyahoga County where he serves as the Executive.”
Taylor Meyers, Marietta College Student Body President: “Making college more affordable is critical in allowing me and other students to pursue our career goals without fear of shouldering crippling debt upon graduation.
Benjamin Lynn, University of Toledo student: “The increase in college tuition over the last few years has been a huge burden to me and so many other students . It’s just common sense that when we’re facing higher debt than ever that student aid should increase as well. I support Ed FitzGerald because he agress that students should be getting more financial aid immediately.”
Jackson Garritty, Ohio State University student: “As someone with student loan debt, I appreciate that FitzGerald’s plan encourages families to consider higher education from the time their child is 5 years old. That not only encourages pursuit of higher education, but reduces the financial burden on students in the future.”
Jordon Fedrick, University of Akron student: “I am one of over 700,000 Ohio residents with federal student loan debt. These enormous debts drag on the economic growth of our state and hinder Ohio families.”
Anita Wainwright, parent of University of Akron student: “The strain of college tuition is a huge emotional and financial burden on my and many other Ohio families. FitzGerald’s plan will make Ohio a more desirable place to raise families.”
Dr. Michael Zickar, Professor of Psychology at Bowling Green State University: “Ed FitzGerald’s plan takes a holistic approach to the affordability crisis.”
U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown: “It is crucial that we make college more affordable for Ohio’s students. Ed FitzGerald’s plan will not only assist Ohioans in achieving their goals, but it will also make Ohio a more desirable place to raise families and start businesses.”
Columbus Mayor Michael Coleman: “By expanding early college programs, FitzGerald’s college affordability plan offers first-generation college students a leg-up and cost savings to attend college upon graduation.”
Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley: “As Governor, Ed FitzGerald will drive down the cost of college for Ohio’s families. Ohio should be a place where every child has the opportunity to pursue their dreams, and FitzGerald understands that.”
U.S. Representative Marcy Kaptur: “Students with a college savings plan are seven times more likely to attend college – Ed FitzGerald’s college savings plan is a much-needed investment in Ohio’s future.”
U.S. Representative Joyce Beatty: “If Ed FitzGerald is given the opportunity to implement his universal college savings plan, he will be giving every child the knowledge that they can go to college. I can’t think of a more empowering plan for our youth.”
Ohio House Democratic Leader Tracy Maxwell Heard: “Under Governor Kasich, Ohio’s public institutions have repeatedly increased their tuition causing the majority of students to take on more debt – yet another ecnoomic slap in the face to Ohio’s middle class. This plan will ensure that in the very first year of FitzGerald’s Administration, students will receive more financial aid for college across teh board.”
Ohio Senate Democratic Leader Joe Schiavoni: “It’s unacceptable that Ohio residents have more than $3.75 billion in federal student loan debt. FitzGerald’s plan addresses this enormous drag on Ohio’s families and economic growth.”
State Representative Teresa Fedor, Ranking Member of House Education Committee: “Ed FitzGerald’s college affordability plan will alleviate the crushing debt on Ohio’s families, and make sure that everyone feels empowered to pursue vocational training or higher education.”
Dawn Hubbell-Staeble, Bowling Green State University professor and parent: “By expanding opportunities for Ohio children to take college classes in high school, Ed FitzGerald will help me and thousands of other Ohio families save for my child’s college education.”
Ohio Education Association President Becky Higgins: “Having a college savings plan greatly improves the chances that a child will attend college. That’s why Ed Fitzgerald’s universal college savings plan makes so much sense. It provides Ohio’s students with a brighter future.”
Larry Christman, former State Representative and education reform advocate: “The state must return to a leadership role in helping students achieve their goals. It is essential that we make college more affordable so Ohio residents can receive their education and achieve their goals.”