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Ohio University students navigate financial aid, scholarships

Pursuing a college degree comes with a hefty price tag. Four years of education for a student living on campus at a public university costs an average of $104,108, according to the Education Data Initiative.

To help mitigate the cost of college, many students find themselves applying for financial aid, scholarships and loans.

According to the director of communication for Enrollment Marketing and Operations, Elaine Goheen, Ohio University awarded students nearly 23,000 scholarships for the 2022-2023 academic year, totaling $62 million in aid.

In 2022, 91% of all OU students received some type of aid. These awards were based on a range of qualifications from academic merit to financial need. 

Recently, OU faculty has been unofficially mandated not to award diversity scholarships, according to a previous Post report. This would affect scholarships for the 2024-2025 school year.

Despite an overwhelming majority of OU students being offered assistance, every financial aid package is unique. As a result, Bobcats are left navigating college costs on an individual level.

Julia Zinnbauer, a freshman studying music production, receives a majority of her financial support from the Honors Tutorial College, a four-year academic program that provides students with full in-state tuition. 

Zinnbauer first heard about HTC at OU through her older brother, a student in the program.

“If I hadn't learned about HTC through my brother, I probably would not be here because it's such a small program,” she said.

Once Zinnbauer was admitted into HTC, she decided to attend OU. She did not want to attend another university and graduate with severe debt.

“The money was one of the top three aspects I think for me on whether or not I would choose OU or not,” she said.

But as Zinnbauer explained, she and other HTC students work hard for their tuition costs to be covered.

“You have to have that accountability, that you're on top of your work and you have to have that, I think, internal drive,” Zinnbauer said.

Avery Brown, a freshman studying communications, has a similar experience to Zinnbauer. Brown is a member of the Cutler Scholars Program. As a Cutler Scholar, Brown receives a four-year merit scholarship and additional funds for experiential learning opportunities. 

“When that offer came in because it is unique in the sense that it's financial aid and it comes with enrichment experiences and other kinds of learning opportunities, it was pretty hard to turn down,” Brown said. “I was very excited for the opportunity.”

Overall, Brown said her experience with OU financial aid services has been positive. She attributes the smooth communication to having a support system at home that helped her navigate the college selection process.

“Personally, I had a really great experience, but I know that not all students that have that support system at home may not feel the same way,” Brown said. 

Atlas Hyacinth, a sophomore studying anthropology, is an independent student with no financial parental support. To better understand the financial aid process, Hyacinth took a financial literacy class during his freshman year. 

“It was really helpful in sort of giving me the rundown of like, ‘how do I file taxes?’” Hyacinth said. “How do I apply for loans without a parent to sign off on it?”

Hyacinth is not alone in his need to navigate taking out loans. According to Goheen, OU students graduated with an average of $28,635 in student debt in 2022. 

Because Hyacinth had some trouble navigating financial aid, he believes OU could improve its processes and make financial literacy more accessible to the student body.

“I remember going into freshman year, it was a little bit of a struggle,” Hyacinth said. “I especially had a lot of trouble with actually communicating with them (the financial aid office).”

Hyacinth thinks many independent students like himself would benefit from accessible and comprehensive information sessions to demonstrate the ins and outs of financial aid.

His biggest piece of advice is to always ask questions, no matter how big or small.

“Never feel like you need to be pressured out of asking a question that you think is important to know about,” Hyacinth said. “No question when it comes to financial literacy is a dumb question.” 


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