COLUMBUS — When they receive their acceptance letters from Capital University in Columbus, Ohio, for fall 2022, new, incoming students will also receive at least $20,000 in guaranteed financial aid scholarships.
University president David Kaufman knows that is probably a little surprising for many people.
But that’s the point, he said. He wants people to be surprised that a private liberal arts university could be as affordable, if not more so, than a public college.
The Main Street Scholarship, the program that is funding the guaranteed $20,000 in financial aid to incoming students, is part of a series of actions Capital University has taken in the last few years to make access to higher education more equitable for all.
The scholarship’s name is a nod to both the street that borders the university, as well as the idea that Main Street is a place where everyone is welcome.
“Motivated students shouldn’t be hindered from their goals by financial difficulties,” said Capital Provost Jody Fournier.
Tuition for full-time undergraduate students at Capital is currently about $39,000 a year, on top of student fees and the cost of living on campus. Kaufman said once you factor in other scholarships, grants, and federal and state aid, the average net price for students is closer to $20,000.
“A lot of students look at what’s published and think, ‘I could never afford that,’” Kaufman said.
“We realize too many talented students miss out on all Capital has to offer due to financial barriers. This is part of our ongoing commitment to empower all students to achieve success,” Fournier said.
The scholarship is for all new, incoming students and is renewable for eight semesters. It can be applied only to tuition, not for room and board, books or university fees. The only requirement is students must maintain a minimum GPA of 2.0 and be enrolled full-time. Current students are not eligible.
The Main Street Scholarship is funded primarily through alumni and corporate donations, Kaufman said.
Capital is working with its donors to create more student scholarships and continue making a private college education more appealing by making it more affordable, Kaufman said.
The scholarship is not a tuition discount. It’s an award for students who choose to study at Capital, Kaufman said.
It’s also the bare minimum amount of financial aid one can receive. Students are still eligible for need-based federal Pell Grants and other university scholarships for academic and community achievements.
Capital University has been doing a lot of soul searching in the last few years to improve access to higher education, increase affordability and student success, administrators said.
Earlier this year, everyone at Capital — from freshmen to graduate students and tenured professors to groundskeepers — got their very own complimentary iPad through a university program called Project Indigo.
“The beauty of Project Indigo is that it would level the playing field technology-wise. So then we asked what’s the next barrier?” Kaufman said. “It was the financial aspect. Now let’s make it more accessible and affordable.”
As a result, Capital University has been doing better in recent years at attracting low-income students, as well as retaining its students.
About a third of Capital’s student population is eligible for Pell Grants, which is up significantly from less than 15% less than a decade ago.
The university also has a 79% student retention rate from freshman to sophomore year. That’s up from 71% in 2009, a number that Fournier has said was “just terrible.”
“The private, premier education we’re providing is available to everyone,” Kaufman said. “We’re hoping to provide a private education delivered at the cost of, or below that, of publics.”