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Ohio University President Duane Nellis speaks at the Faculty Senate meeting on Feb. 5. (FILE)

Faculty Senate: PROSPER Act could cut $34 million in subsidized loans for OU students

Congress’ new bill could cut funding for grants and loans that go to the students with the most financial need.

Aimed toward reforming the Higher Education Act, which was first signed into law in 1965, the PROSPER Act could cut at least $34 million in subsidized loans for Ohio University students. OU President Duane Nellis and interim Vice President and Provost Elizabeth Sayrs brought their concerns to Faculty Senate and encouraged faculty members to reach out to their Congress members. 

The 2017 OU graduates had an average federal loan debt of $20,992 each, and students who took out federal and private loans had an average debt of about $27,900. 

“Having access to these federal funds really is important, and there are many provisions for the quote-on-quote PROSPER Act that are of concern,” Nellis said. "One is repeal of the (Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants), which would hurt our neediest students."

That grant is proven to boost completion rates at OU because it allocates funding for students with the most financial need, Nellis said. 

“Those grants go to students who have a zero expected family contribution,” Sayrs said. "This is people whose income is so low that even the federal FAFSA form says they can’t contribute anything."

Because Nellis expects the act to be passed before the November election, he urged faculty members to contact senators and representatives to voice their concerns. Nellis will talk on the phone with U.S. Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Upper Arlington, this week.

“We just need to be on top of this,” Nellis said. 

Also during the meeting, the Professional Relations Committee presented resolutions that addressed sexual misconduct procedures in the Faculty Handbook.

Those resolutions seek to establish a cohesive response to allegations of sexual misconduct by creating a University Professional Ethics Committee and outlining procedures in the Faculty Handbook. 

“Federal regulations ask that all people hearing or investigating these allegations have training on issues related to dating violence,” Sarah Wyatt, chair of the Professional Relations Committee, said. “This would provide a university-wide response instead of potentially different responses from different college professional ethics committees.”

The Professional Relations Committee has been working with the Office of the Provost and the Office of Equity and Civil Rights Compliance since September. The committee has also been working with Legal Affairs.

After there was heated debate about hiring practice, the sense of the senate resolution passed. That means Faculty Senate supports flexibility in teaching, research and service ratios by allowing the adaptability in tenure and non-tenure tracks as the university goes forward. 

The decreasing percentage of tenured and tenure-track faculty in recent years prompted that resolution.

“This is not changing what (departments) need; it’s giving you flexibility in getting to what you need,” Sherrie Gradin, chair of the Promotion and Tenure Committee, said. 

Nellis also gave updates on the search processes within the administration. 

Vice President for Student Affairs Jason Pina and Zanesville Campus Dean Jeremy Webster are co-chairing a search committee for the new vice president of Diversity and Inclusion. They are in the process of selecting a search firm.

Candidates for the provost search will be on campus for interviews right after spring break, Sayrs said.


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