Ohio State University entered into a 50-year deal with Ohio State Energy Partners, a private company made up of French energy company ENGIE and Canadian investment firm Axium Infrastructure, that earmarked funding to provide Ohio’s low-income students with free tuition, according to the Columbus Dispatch.
The university pays fees starting around $55 million per year to the company for a Comprehensive Energy Management Plan for its facilities. The plan proposes to modernize 485 buildings on campus to meet a university goal to attain a 25 percent improvement in building efficiency within 10 years, and establish a new $50 million research center.
For commercial businesses, building efficiency has been found to help attract talent, boost worker productivity and reduce operating expenses in addition to reducing energy usage. For states, funding state university building efficiency projects boosts opportunity for low-income students.
Free Tuition Program Set to Roll Out in 2018
As part of the energy management plan, the university deal provides more than $1 billion in education investment upfront, plus a three-stage payment of $150 million that will support the free tuition program.
Ohio State will reportedly use $11 million each year to help about 3,500 in-state students, freezing their tuition and fees for four years.
The effort is another step following on the university’s President’s Affordability Grant program, the school’s 2015 effort to invest $100 million in additional need-based aid to low- and moderate-income students by 2020. The Dispatch reported this program has already provided about $60 million in aid to university students.
The new energy deal-funded program will ensure that all in-state students qualifying for Federal Pell grants — Federal aid for low-income college students — will receive an aid package from the university. It will cover any costs that remain after federal aid, Ohio College Opportunity Grants and other gift aid has been applied, resulting in free tuition.
The free tuition program will launch with students attending the main Ohio State campus for the 2018-2019 school year.
Building Efficiency Creates Social Benefit