Colleges to help students in tough economy Emergency loans, other programs offered at YSU


By Harold Gwin

Emergency loans and assurances of available student aid are parts of the package.

YOUNGSTOWN — Some Ohio universities are launching efforts to help students needing assistance in this failing economy, but Youngstown State University says it already has programs in place to provide that aid.

Both Ohio State and Kent State universities announced plans Tuesday to help students, offering things such as emergency loans, guarantees that financial aid will increase proportionally if tuition rises next fall and personal contact with freshmen who aren’t re-enrolled after the fall term to determine whether financial hardship was a factor in their decision.

Both universities said they are responding to a time of economic instability, both regionally and nationally, to assure current and future students that financial assistance will be available.

Youngstown State has had some of those same things in place for some time and is already prepared to help students, said Mark Van Tilburg, executive director of marketing and communications.

YSU has had an emergency loan fund available since 2004, funded through the Marion G. Resch Foundation, he said.

The university has given out $866,000 from that fund to help students with emergency needs and for regular need-based student assistance, he said, adding that the fund still has money available to those facing financial difficulties.

Like other of Ohio’s public universities, Youngstown State has again frozen its tuition this year, and that includes spring semester 2009, he said.

YSU already has “a very aggressive retention program” targeting freshmen to be sure the university is doing all it can to ensure that they return, Van Tilburg said, noting that the program reaches out to all incoming students as well.

YSU hasn’t offered a guarantee that scholarship aid will increase proportionally with any tuition increase that may come next year but will do everything it can to assure that its students have the financial aid they need, he said.

Youngstown State, with an annual tuition of just $6,720, is already the most affordable of the state universities, Van Tilburg pointed out, adding that the university intends to retain that distinction.

The university’s board of trustees recently voted to eliminate all but $100 of the $2,692 annual tuition surcharge that students from eight western Pennsylvania counties along the Ohio border must pay to attend YSU, a move university officials expect to boost enrollment from that targeted area.

Prospective students and parents appear to be realizing the good value and growing academic reputation that YSU offers, Van Tilburg said, noting that the admissions office is receiving a high number of calls regarding enrollment. Some are from people who have been considering private schools but, in light of the current economy, have decided to look at state schools as well, he said.

At Kent State, President Lester Lefton said the university remains fully committed to its aid programs, particularly student scholarships and university grants, to ensure that Kent remains accessible and affordable.

Ohio State is calling its effort “Students First,” and it includes a commitment to additional financial aid availability, tuition assurances and more, including a fund-raising emphasis on donations for student aid.

gwin@vindy.com

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