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Denison University was recently listed among the top 30 small, private baccalaureate liberal arts colleges in a ranking by The Wall Street Journal. Denison, with 53 majors and five pre-professional programs, is building a career exploration center, funding internships, and taking other steps to help students reach their career goals. With an enrollment of 2,250, Denison awards about $60 million in need-based financial aid and merit scholarships each year, enabling about half of students to complete their degree with no debt at all. Even students who do borrow money for college take on less debt than the national average. About 20 percent of Denison students represent the first generation in their family to attend college.
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
CAG Score 95.5
With an average yearly enrollment of just over 1,000 students, the Mount Carmel College of Nursing is one of Ohio's largest baccalaureate nursing programs. Incoming freshmen with excellent academic histories are automatically considered for the Presidential Scholarship. This program awards $3,000/year for the freshman and sophomore years, and $4,000/year for the junior and senior years. The College Scholars program offers $2,000/year for the freshman and sophomore years, and $3,000/year for the junior and senior years. The Eleanor Wilson Recruitment Scholarship ($1,200) is offered to qualified students only during their freshman year. Continuing and transfer students are considered for the Eleanor Wilson Academic Scholarship, which awards $1,000 for the sophomore year, $1,250 for the junior year, and $1,500 for the senior year.
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
CAG Score 95.3
Walsh University won the Noel-Levitz Retention Excellence Award in 2017, perhaps because it handed out $30 million in grants and scholarships in 2016. After financial aid, the average price for tuition, fees, and room and board for residential students was $16,500 in 2017. Although it's a private university, Walsh's rates are below those of the state's best-known public universities. Plus, students who move on to a graduate degree at the school get a 25 percent discount. Other graduate discounts include the Counseling and Human Development Program Premier Scholarship and the Licensure Program Discount - that's for baccalaureate-holders who need additional undergraduate credits toward the Teacher Preparation Program.
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
CAG Score 93.1
Is it possible to have a quality college education for a low cost in Ohio? You bet. Both public universities (e.g. CSU, OU, SSU) and small private colleges are making an effort to accommodate low-income students. After you’ve browsed our profiles of affordable Ohio schools, check out your state financial aid options. Ohio doesn’t have a ton of state scholarships and grants, but it’s always worthwhile applying. You may find you’re eligible for packages (e.g. Forever Buckeyes, Choose Ohio First) that you never knew existed.
College students in Ohio should find it easy to transfer college credits. Each institution in Ohio offers a transfer module, the entire state system uses articulation numbers for course equivalency identification, and students are guaranteed transfer of associate’s degrees. The state also offers extensive transfer guides to ensure that students can map out their plan for courses.
The Ohio Transfer Module offers a guaranteed transfer of applicable credits. By completing this module, students are able to fulfill general education course requirements anywhere within the Ohio postsecondary education system and have them count as an equivalent at another institution within the system.
Ohio does not have a common course numbering system, however, the state does have articulation numbers. These numbers clearly identify course equivalencies between institutions.
Students in Ohio who have completed an associate of arts, associate of science, or applied associate degree with an overall GPA of 2.0 or higher will have transfer credit for every course that they have completed with a passing grade. These students are also given priority admission, provided they have either 60 semester hours or 90 quarter hours of credit.
Want to know exactly how your college credits will transfer, or need to plan out your course work? Use Ohio’s Transfer Module Grids, or Transfer Assurance Guides, which give students the ability to see how college credits transfer between Ohio institutions, as well as identify degree pathways.
Looking to make your Ohio college degree that much cheaper? Spend a few minutes on the Students section of the Ohio Department of Higher Education website. Along with detailed info on state scholarships and grants, you’ll find advice on planning for college, financial aid resources, tips on transferring credits and links to Ohio internship opportunities. You also can explore the interactive map of Ohio public institution locations and use the net price calculators to determine the actual price (out-of-pocket college costs minus scholarships and grants) for individual Ohio colleges and universities.
Trying to decide between affordable schools? Although it’s targeted at international students, the Ohio G.R.E.A.T. website has a free tool you might want to try. With Explore Schools, you can search by tuition rates, setting (e.g. city vs. suburb vs. rural), degree type and control (public vs. private). Each college profile has a handy summary of in-state & out-of-state tuition, enrollment numbers and the average financial aid package.
We also recommend a quick visit to the Ohio Department of Education’s section on Ohio Resources for College and Career Planning. This has a rundown of many student-focused initiatives—including the College Advantage Savings Plan, the College 101 Magazine and OhioMeansJobs K-12—and lots of financial aid advice for parents. When in doubt, call the the OhioHigherEd College Access Information Hotline at 1-800-AFFORD-IT (233-6734) to learn more about other funding opportunities.
Summary: The OCOG is one of the best-known state-funded programs. It gives grant money for college tuition to Ohio residents with the greatest financial need. OCOG recipients can use the grant for full-time or part-time study at Ohio public universities, Ohio private, non-profit colleges/universities and some Ohio private, for-profit institutions. Students at community colleges and university regional branch campuses have a $0 OCOG award amount unless the student attends an eligible institution year-round (see the Ohio Higher Ed website for details). In 2016, the maximum annual award was $2,592 for full-time study at a private school.
Eligibility: Grants are need-based—your family’s total income cannot exceed $75,000 and the Expected Family Contribution (EFC) has to be equal to or less than 2190.
How to Apply: File your FAFSA as soon as you can. The state will use that information to determine if you’re eligible for a grant.
Summary: COF scholarship programs are intended to encourage more students to pursue science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields in Ohio colleges/universities. A large number of Ohio schools offer COF scholarships, including Ohio University and Cleveland State. For example, the University of Akron gives COF scholars $5,200 per academic year for a maximum of four years.
Eligibility: Check with the individual college or university for details on COF eligibility. Along with enrollment in a STEM degree program, you may be required to participate in research projects or extracurricular activities.
How to Apply: Apply through your college or university. Each school will have a COF website page with details on the program.
Summary: The JRJ program is aimed at Ohio state and federal public defenders and state prosecutors. It provides assistance with loan repayments if attorneys agree to remain employed as public defenders and prosecutors for at least three years. Federal student loans (FFEL and Direct loans) are eligible for repayment, but loans in default, Parent PLUS loans, and private, commercial or alternative student loans are not.
Eligibility: Regardless of title, all eligible attorneys must be “continually licensed to practice law” and not in default on repayment of any federal student loans. The following categories qualify:
Prosecutors who are employees of the federal government and attorneys in private practice (even if they are providing public defense services under contract to the state) are not eligible.
How to Apply: Complete the JRJ Application on the Ohio Higher Ed website.
Summary: NEALP provides financial assistance to Ohio students enrolled for at least half-time study (or accepted for enrollment) in an approved Ohio nurse education program. This program is open to nurses who intend to serve as instructors as well as students who intend to serve as nurses after graduation.
Successful applicants receive a forgivable loan of $1,500 per year—these funds can be used for educational expenses (e.g. tuition, laboratory fees, books, supplies, room and board, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses). To qualify to have these loans cancelled, a NEALP recipient must then be employed full-time as an LPN, RN or nurse instructor in the State of Ohio for a minimum of five years after graduation. If you don’t complete the service obligation, the amount that is not cancelled is owed plus interest.
Eligibility: Applicants are ranked based on FAFSA data—those that demonstrate the highest level of need are awarded first. An applicant must also:
How to Apply: File your FAFSA and then create a NEALP Web Account and complete the NEALP application.
Summary: This generous scholarship program pays 100% of tuition and general fees at state universities or the equivalent amount at private institutions for members of the Ohio National Guard. Participants must enroll in a bachelor’s or associate’s degree-granting program at a participating school in Ohio. ONG Members receive educational units that depend on their years of service:
Former ONG Members who have completed their ONG enlistment obligation with an honorable discharge may continue their Scholarship Program benefit for the time they were unable to attend school due to deployment.
Eligibility: You must be an active ONG Member or former ONG Member whose education was delayed due to deployment. The ONGSP is available for undergraduate degree programs only; ONG Members who possess a bachelor’s degree are not eligible.
How to Apply: Active ONG Members should visit the Ohio National Guard Scholarship website, complete their profile and fill out the application form. Former ONG Members will need complete a separate application.
Summary: Intended for Ohio residents, this fund provides tuition money to the children and spouses of peace officers, fire fighters and certain other safety officers who have been killed in the line-of-duty anywhere in the U.S. Funds are also available for the children and spouses of members of the U.S. Armed Forces who have been killed in the line of duty during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom or a designated combat zone. However, children are only eligible for this program if they are not eligible for the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship.
It’s a very generous program. In 2016, the fund provided tuition benefits that covered 100% of instructional and general fee charges at public colleges and universities and $9,020 per year at private and proprietary post-secondary institutions. Money can be used for part-time or full-time study.
Eligibility: You must be an Ohio resident enrolled in full-time or part-time study for an associate or bachelor’s degree at any participating Ohio post-secondary institution. You will also need to provide proof of your spouse or parent’s cause of death.
How to Apply: Contact the Ohio Department of Higher Education State Grants and Scholarships Department representative for an application form.
Summary: The Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Program gives tuition assistance to the children of deceased or severely disabled Ohio veterans who served in the U.S. Armed Forces during a period of declared war or conflict. Scholarship money can be used for undergraduate tuition and general fees at two- and four-year public institutions or eligible private colleges and universities. In 2016, the state funded 100% of annual tuition and general fees for students at public institutions and $5,667 per year for students attending private institutions.
Eligibility: In addition to qualifying as a “war orphan,” you must
How to Apply: Complete the Ohio War Orphans Scholarship Application on the Ohio Higher Ed website.
Contact the Ohio Department of Veterans Services for more advice on education benefits for active service members and Ohio veterans.
Summary: Forever Buckeyes ensures that any Ohio high school graduate (public or private) who has left the state but returned to enroll in an undergraduate or graduate program at an Ohio college only has to pay the in-state resident tuition rate. In other words, you don’t have to live in Ohio for 12 months prior to enrollment to prove your residency. Every state institution within the University System of Ohio, including four-year public institutions, branch campuses, Ohio community colleges and Ohio technical colleges participates in the program.
Eligibility: You must have earned a high school diploma from an Ohio high school (public or private). Unfortunately, the program does not cover students who received a GED.
How to Apply: Check with your college or university. You may be required to fill out a Forever Buckeye Residency Application and provide supporting documents (e.g. high school transcript).
When you’re responsible for regular bills and college costs, it can be extremely hard to stay afloat. If you’re running into problems paying for basic services, the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services (ODJFS) may be able to help. ODJFS handles programs such as SNAP (food stamps), temporary cash assistance, Medicaid and child care benefits. You can also visit the website of the Ohio Development Services Agency, which administers energy assistance programs (e.g. HEAP). For info on affordable housing for Ohio residents, check out the Ohio Housing Financing Agency (OHFA).
Your second option is to call 2-1-1, a free 24/7 helpline, or to visit the website of Ohio 211. 211 representatives can connect you to over 18,000 government, health and social service programs. Need cheap child care? Losing your apartment? Worried about a family crisis? Can’t afford to buy groceries? These are the folks to ask for advice. We’ve also listed a number of county-specific social service organizations in our city sections below.
The words “cheap” and “on-campus housing” rarely go together. You can make dorm life more affordable by sharing with roommates and opting for the minimum meal plan, but you could still end up paying more than you would for off-campus housing. What’s more, you may have no choice. For example, all unmarried, full-time OSU students within two years of high school graduation (i.e. freshmen and sophomores) must live on campus, unless they meet certain exemptions (e.g. they have a family). Visit the housing section on your school’s website for up-to-date information on rates and requirements.
On the other hand, on-campus housing has certain economic upsides. You’re not paying for commuting costs, rooms are typically furnished, utilities are included and buildings are up-to-code (e.g. properly insulated). To get the real scoop on expenses, play with the budget calculators on MappingYourFuture.org and CalcXML.com. They let you compare on-campus costs (meal plans, dorm fees, etc.) with off-campus bills (groceries, utilities, etc.).
Worried that your financial aid package won’t cover housing? Make an appointment with your school’s residential life/housing coordinator, your high school counselor or the Financial Aid Office. Counselors can often refer you to scholarships or work-study programs that will cover room and board. For example, YSU offers need-based housing grants of up to $2,000 per academic year for on-campus housing.
Affordable Ohio universities often end up being commuter schools (in 2016, over 90% of CSU students lived off-campus). As long as you have access to reliable transportation, you can save a significant amount of money by sharing a cheap apartment with friends. But check the housing section of your school website anyway. Universities often provide solid advice and useful housing links. For example, CSU has a page of Off-Campus Housing Resources, OU has an Off-Campus website and OSU has an Online Housing Search.
After you’ve browsed your university’s info, you can comparison shop on the web. Craigslist is the usual go-to for affordable rooms, but there are lots of others. For instance, sites like CampusRent.com, ApartmentGuide.com and MyApartmentMap.com allow you to search for housing around your specific school. When a crisis hits and you have nowhere else to go, the Ohio Homeless Shelter Directory includes emergency shelters and transitional housing opportunities.
Utilities are often not included in the rent, so it’s important to know what your landlord is willing to cover (e.g. sewer) and what you’ll have to manage (e.g. electricity). To get a real sense of actual costs, ask for a monthly estimate of utility bills or talk to former renters. The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) also posts a monthly utility rate survey, where you can compare average rates for electric, telephone and natural gas in cities across Ohio.
Living at home and struggling to stay warm? PUCO has a useful list of Ohio Energy Assistance Programs. For example, Ohio’s Home Energy Assistance Program (HEAP) and the Winter Crisis Program help low-income Ohioans pay for home energy bills. Meanwhile, Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP) Plus allows eligible customers to make affordable monthly energy payments on a year-round basis. Individual utility companies may also be able to help. For instance, AEP facilitates a Neighbor to Neighbor program that helps customers whose incomes disqualify them for government assistance and Duke Energy Ohio participates in the Salvation Army’s HeatShare program. Always ask what’s available.
Almost every Ohio school will have a student health center that offers free (or at least affordable) medical care. As you might expect, big universities tend to have more services than community colleges. For example, OU’s Campus Care Clinic offers everything from x-rays and physical therapy to transgender care and counseling on eating disorders. CSU’s Health & Wellness Services is staffed by certified nurse practitioners and doctors. Most student health centers are also accustomed to dealing with mental health crises.
Can’t find help at your school? Both FreeClinicDirectory.org and NeedyMeds.org list community clinics and health centers in Ohio that offer free/cheap medical care. When it comes to mental health, Ohio’s Department of Mental Health and Addiction Services (MHAS) has a toll-free number—1-
Finding affordable dental care may be more challenging. OSU offers dental services, but it’s one of the few Ohio universities that does. When you get stuck, see if you live near the Case School of Dental Medicine (Cleveland) or the OSU College of Dentistry (Columbus). Because they’re training new dentists, these schools are usually eager to give patients a discount rate. Alternatively, you can look for free and low-cost dental clinics on FreeDentalCare.us or see if you qualify for low-income dental assistance plans (e.g. OPTIONS and Safety Net Clinics) from the Ohio Department of Health.
First off, if you attend an Ohio college with daycare facilities ask your school if it provides discounts for student parents. For example, Wright University uses a subsidy and the CCAMPIS Grant (Child Care Access Means Parents In School) to provide financial assistance to low-income students with children enrolled at Mini U. Mount St. Joseph’s Charlotte Schmidlapp Children’s Center accepts vouchers from qualified students.
You should also see if you qualify for federal programs (e.g. Head Start) or state child care benefits from the ODJFS. To qualify for ODJFS benefits, parents need to be working, in school or completing job training. Most children can receive assistance up to the age of 13. You can compare all your options with the ODJFS’s Online Search for Early Learning and Development Programs or OCCRA’s Ohio Child Care Finder.
Transportation costs are obviously going to depend on your choice of school. As dull as it might seem, the Transportation section of your university’s website is going to be very helpful. For example, OSU’s Transportation and Traffic Management site has the latest on its bike sharing program, the free Campus Area Bus Service (CABS) service, vehicle rental and more. If you’re driving, you may want to ask about rideshare or carpool programs.
Remember, too, that big universities often partner with local transport companies to give students a break. CSU’s U-Pass allows all main campus students to ride free of charge on all Greater Cleveland RTA buses and rapid trains during the academic semester. With OSU’s BuckID, undergraduate, graduate and professional students have unlimited access to COTA’s entire bus system. Many major inter-city companies (e.g. Amtrak, Greyhound, etc.) also offer discounted tickets/passes to college students.
Even if they qualify for food stamps, a lot of low-income students still go hungry in order to pay for college. That’s why more and more Ohio colleges and universities are stepping up and establishing campus food pantries. These schools include Owens Community College, Wright State University, OSU, Lorain County Community College, The University of Toledo, Cincinnati State Technical and Community College, Northwest State Community College and the University of Cincinnati.
Nothing on campus? Community organizations will welcome you with open arms. FoodPantries.org has a comprehensive list of Ohio Food Pantries and HomelessShelterDirectory.org has a similar database of OH soup kitchens, pantries and food banks. New moms or moms-to-be might also want to see if they qualify for the Ohio WIC Program.
SEE ALSO: our Encyclopedic Guide to Saving Money as a College Student.
Ohio cities are generally more budget-friendly than East Coast or West Coast options, and Columbus is no exception. According to Sperling’s Best Paces, the average cost of housing is about half the national average; other costs (e.g. utilities, health, grocery) are below the norm. Cheap rent is good news if you’re thinking of OSU, but remember that winters are freezing and public transportation options are limited. General info for residents can be found on the City of Columbus website.
Maybe you already live in Columbus and can’t afford basic bills. Maybe your parents are undocumented immigrants. Maybe you think a college education is out of your family’s budget. Whatever your particular challenge, there are Columbus non-profit organizations that can lend a hand.
This is just a small sample of what’s out there. For help with a specific challenge, try searching by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of Columbus, OH non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.
Low-income students face all kinds of challenges that other residents don’t. If you find yourself running into barriers to a college education—your family can’t afford your electric bill, you need help with child care, your parents are immigrants and you’re not sure about your legal status—there are lots of Cleveland non-profits that are willing to step in.
And there are many, many more. For assistance with a specific challenge, try searching by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of Cleveland, OH non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.
The cost of living (COL) in Cincinnati is like most Ohio cities—middle of the ground. In 2016, Sperling’s Best Places put all COL categories below the national average. Housing was particularly affordable. That’s good news for Mount St. Joseph University students who live off-campus and commute. Public transportation is not stellar, so you may have to think about a car. General info for residents can be found on the City of Cincinnati website.
Nobody can get a college degree alone—it takes the support of the entire community. Whether you’re looking for cheap food, affordable child care, college prep classes or just a little bit of extra help during a crisis, these Cincinnati non-profits are ready and willing.
Just to name a few! For assistance with a specific challenge, try searching by category (e.g. education, food, etc.) in the directory of Cincinnati, OH non-profits on CharityBlossom.org.