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Affordability the hot issue at Ohio State Undergraduate Student Government address

USG President Taylor Stepp gives a State of the University address Nov. 19 at the Ohio Union. Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

USG President Taylor Stepp gives a State of the University address Nov. 19 at the Ohio Union.
Credit: Shelby Lum / Photo editor

Ohio State student leaders are working on making an OSU education more affordable.

OSU Undergraduate Student Government President Taylor Stepp and Vice President Josh Ahart spoke openly to their organization in the annual address.

In his speech, Stepp said he plans to spend much of his final term lobbying OSU to improve access and affordability, calling student debt the “greatest problem in higher education of the 21st century.”

“The day where a student can finance his or her way through college is long gone, and now students and families are taking out crippling loans,” said Stepp, a fourth-year in public affairs.

His speech was the first announcement of the findings of the Commission to Rethink Access, a USG committee formed in mid-October to address concerns about rising tuition and student debt.

Stepp said OSU needs to develop a long-term plan to address the cost of college and he plans to work with the administration to develop ways to make students more financially literate, with a better understanding of debt and how to pay it off.

Tuition for the 2013-14 academic year is about $10,000 for Ohio residents and roughly $25,700 for nonresidents.

Stepp also said the university needs to increase need-based aid for middle class students.

USG has held preliminary conversations in recent months about its affordability policies with Executive Vice President and Provost Joseph Steinmetz, as well as several university vice presidents, to discuss ways of implementing USG’s recommendations, said Michael Ringle, a fourth-year in political science who sits on the Commission to Rethink Access.

Brett Bejcek, a first-year in actuarial science, said he appreciates the concern about rising tuition, but thinks it’s part of the cost of a good education.

“You get what you pay for. Obviously a community college isn’t going to have as good of education as Ohio State, but it’s cheaper,” he said.

Bejcek said, however, OSU should be making tuition at least affordable enough so students can pay their way through college by working.

Nicole Bishop, a third-year in political science, said state and local governments need to lead the way in lowering costs for higher education.

“They have more control over the nation’s culture of higher education. They need to take student loan rates more seriously and make sure that interest rates are being capped,” she said.

Additionally, Bishop said there needs to be more debt forgiveness for people going into public service.

Stepp also stressed the importance of campus safety in his speech. He said he is proud of the role USG played in the adoption of a joint jurisdiction agreement between University Police and the Columbus Division of Police that gave University Police some ability to enforce laws in the off-campus area.

A reported armed robbery on 15th Avenue Nov. 11 led to the issuing of the sixth public safety notice since the beginning of August related to an armed robbery, attempted armed robbery or aggravated armed robbery reported in the OSU campus area, causing some students to question their safety off-campus.

Ahart addressed the body before Stepp, and lauded the importance of shared governance at OSU. He said OSU’s model is one of only a few in the country that give students some administrative power.

Ahart also praised changes made to the USG constitution over the summer. Under the new constitution, funding decisions were moved to from the General Assembly to an allocations committee. That move has allowed the General Assembly to focus its efforts on policy decisions and resolutions, he said.


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