As Otterbein University announced tuition hikes that will total 5.7 percent over four years, it sought Nov. 15 to highlight its efforts to be more affordable for low-income students.

For students enrolling next fall, the private university in Westerville announced it will raise tuition by $600 each year over the following three years. Tuition now is just over $31,400 per year. Room and board, books and other fees add almost $12,200 a year, for a total annual cost to attend and live on campus of about $43,600.

Otterbein said it was announcing the tuition increases up front in an effort at transparency, allowing students and parents to have certainty about the cost of their four-year education.

"Otterbein wants to be a part of the solution to the unsustainable rising cost of tuition," university President John Comerford said in a written statement from college.

Also, Otterbein's new Opportunity Scholarship is now offered to Ohio residents who are recipients of federal Pell grants and covers the cost of tuition after all federal and state aid and up to $5,500 per year in federal student loans are applied, spokeswoman Jenny Hill said. The scholarship doesn't cover room and board, fees or books, which students must pay for, Hill said.

To qualify, students must be state residents, be enrolled full time and maintain a 2.75 grade-point average. The Opportunity Scholarship is renewable for up to eight semesters or until a student receives an undergraduate degree.

"Our target for the Opportunity Scholarship was 20 additional students, but we could take up to 50 additional students in each first-year class," Hill said in an email.

Fifty students is equal to about 2 percent of Otterbein's almost 2,400 undergraduate students.

The program is based on one that Otterbein has offered to Columbus City Schools students since 2014, and later expanded to students in the South-Western, Westerville and Whitehall districts.

About 350 Pell-grant-eligible students were admitted for fall 2018 and 184 enrolled, Hill said.

Otterbein also has a dual-enrollment program with Columbus State Community College that allows participants to earn their associate and bachelor's degrees for less than half the cost of attending an Ohio public university.

All academic data are shared, meaning that students don't need to officially "transfer" to Otterbein to receive a $17,000 scholarship, or 53 percent discount.

Otterbein also has a discount program for dependent children younger than 23 of all full-time Columbus City Schools employees.

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