Nan Whaley Promises Free Community College for All Ohioans in Campaign for Governor

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ERIC SANDY / SCENE
  • ERIC SANDY / SCENE
As we get our 2018 gubernatorial campaign coverage under way, we stopped it at Nan Whaley's City Club event today. The mayor of Dayton has been appearing throughout the state recently to trumpet her action on the opioid addiction crisis and the need for better partnerships between Columbus and the state's local municipalities.

The cornerstone of her speech today involved a new promise — "The Ohio Promise," in campaign lit — to offer universal free community college tuition to all Ohio residents.

Even with high schools around the state reporting higher graduation rates, the number of students gathering some sort of post-secondary education is dropping. Some $90 million in federal financial aid is being left on the table, Whaley said.

In order to reverse that trend and boost the state's workforce, she's looking to Tennessee's example in offering "last-dollar" scholarships to fill the gap between FAFSA qualifications and the total cost of tuition. Ballparking the cost, Whaley's campaign said that the gap hovers under $1,000 per student on average.

In Tennessee, this first year of the program is expected to cost $10 million. (The population of Tennessee is about 57 percent that of Ohio, as of 2016, just for budget perspective.) Whaley placed the total state cost at around $50 or $60 million, and mentioned the issuance of bonds to fund the program. The Ohio budget presently clocks in around $65.4 billion.

Nonetheless, Whaley's program is of course being pitched as a boon to the state's workforce and jobs numbers, which, according to July data, lag slightly behind the U.S. In today's speech, Whaley went after Gov. John Kasich's jobs record; the labor force in Ohio has mostly languished under his administration, bouncing back only this year.

"The Ohio Miracle is in fact the Ohio Mirage," Whaley said, delivering the day's finest line and referencing Kasich's oft-touted economic message.

As far as the primary race itself goes, candidates Jim Renacci (Republican, Nov. 28) and Betty Sutton (Democrat, Jan. 12) will round out the City Club's governor's race series. Listen to previous events here.

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