State Rep. Dan Ramos Has a Cool Idea for Making College in Ohio Affordable (That Has No Chance Happening)

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THE OHIO CHANNEL | IDEASTREAM
  • The Ohio Channel | Ideastream

For the last four years, State Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain), has been working on legislation that would cover 90 percent of the cost for students to attend public college in Ohio.

Ohio currently ranks 45th nationally for college affordability, meaning Ohio families face some of the highest burdens of student loan debt in the country.

Today, Ramos introduced the Ohio "Lets Everyone Achieve Right Now" (LEARN) credit that, in some nice mystical fantasy world where it was passed, would revolutionize the way Ohioans pay for higher education.

Colleges and universities are currently required by the federal government to report their full cost of education, and each potential student seeking financial aide is required to complete the Free Application for Student Aid (FAFSA).



Using these documented costs of education and factors like savings, family income and siblings, a student is given an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) number that represents the maximum a family could potentially pay out of pocket for a student to attend college. That number is usually astoundingly high.

"We’ve allowed college to get out of control expensive at the same time you need a degree to get a job," Ramos told Scene. "The majority of new jobs require some form of post-high school education."

According to the bill's official press release, The Ohio LEARN tax credit would create an individualized, refundable tax credit covering the full Cost of Attendance (COA) including tuition, room & board, books, etc., spread out over 10 years, subtracting aid or scholarships received, and subtracting 10% of a students (EFC). Students would ultimately be responsible for 10 percent of their EFC, ensuring an equitable amount of skin in the game for each student.

"We hear a lot about how college isn’t for everyone and we need tradespeople, and that is 100 percent true," Ramos said. "But it seems like college is for everyone in areas like Bay Village but not for everyone from E. 99th & Saint Clair."

"There are plenty of kids in Bay Village who would make great plumbers and kids from East Cleveland who could make great doctors," he said. "Students should go to the place that’s best for them and with money out of the picture, that becomes much more of a reality. I want students, kids, non-traditional students to go where they are best suited, and I don’t want money to be what makes that decision for them."

The Ohio LEARN program would be available after each taxable year for students paying cash, or when loans become due for students financing their education. The tax credit would go to the payer.

If the student pays or finances their education themselves, they would receive the tax benefit. If parents pay, they would receive the benefit under the program.

The tax credit would be received on Ohio tax returns, creating an incentive for college graduates to stay in the state after graduation, as they would be ineligible to receive the credit if they move elsewhere.

The money could then be put back into the economy through major purchases like homes, which could help the fact that Ohio's housing market is one of the least competitive in the country.

Ramos says this is a bi-partisan issue, as both Democrats and Republicans agree we need a better educated workforce, as does Gov. Kasich. Still, the bill's passage is a longshot.

"The biggest enemy to new ideas is 'this is how we’ve always done things,"" Ramos said. This tax credit is admittedly radical, but Ramos says it's necessary. "Incremental change isn’t fixing the problem. We need to catch up. We need to catch up with Washington State and Massachusetts and California where big companies and new jobs are going and paying people a lot of money."

The legislation was officially filed Tuesday and has yet to receive a bill number, but if passed would become one of the biggest tax breaks in Ohio history.

According to Ramos, "The simple fact is that the world is changing, Ohio is changing, and we’ve spent decades not changing with it." 

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