OCSEA free college benefit FAQ

Below is a compiled list of our most asked questions from members and relatives. If you need help or have additional questions, please call OCSEA toll-free at 800-266-5615 or email freecollege@ocsea.org.

What is the OCSEA Free College Benefit?

OCSEA members and their families are now eligible to receive last dollar scholarships for online Associate Degree programs offered by Eastern Gateway Community College, after any federal or state financial aid, or employer grants or tuition reimbursement benefits are applied.

To be eligible for the scholarship, students who are OCSEA members for the state of Ohio collective bargaining unit and have access to funds through the Union Education Trust must use those funds first. All other interested students must apply for federal financial aid and use any grants to pay the tuition.

Any remaining balance for tuition, fees, or books at EGCC will be covered by the OCSEA Free College scholarship. This ensures that no student has to pay out-of-pocket for any tuition or fees at EGCC—resulting in cost savings of thousands of dollars!

Why is OCSEA offering this benefit?

One of our members' biggest concerns is the cost of college. Today, only half of Americans who begin college will be able to finish, largely due to financial and work/life barriers. With this benefit, we’ve found a way to help our members and their families begin to alleviate this worry.

Who is eligible for the OCSEA Free College Benefit?

OCSEA members in good standing and their families. Family is defined as spouses, children, stepchildren, dependents and grandchildren. Potential students’ membership will be verified by OCSEA.

Is this for real? Sounds like a scam.

It is for real and students in Ohio have been taking advantage of this great opportunity since Fall 2015.
Eligibility requires that potential students complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid and apply any federal grants, as well as any employer or military tuition reimbursement or assistance for which they have eligibility. Students who are State of Ohio bargaining unit employees must use their Union Education Trust benefits, and are therefore not required to complete the FAFSA.

Once the FAFSA is completed, the college may require that additional documentation be submitted. All members must comply with the document requests by EGCC in order to complete the financial aid process to determine eligibility for federal aid.

The Free College benefit will cover the rest of the cost of tuition and fees for EGCC’s online programs.

Why do I have to use my Union Education Trust benefits?

This Free College Benefit is a last dollar scholarship for EGCC’s online programs. The college must be satisfied that all grants have been applied to the tuition in order to apply the scholarship for the remaining balance. Students who have access to benefits through the trust or through FAFSA must apply them in order ensure the program can be sustained and expanded for union members and their families.

If this is free, why do I have to fill out the FAFSA?

The Free College Benefit is a last dollar scholarship. That means in order for it to work for as many people as possible, and for the benefit to strengthen and grow, we need to ensure that students' grants and employer reimbursement are applied to the tuition and fees. The grants are only awarded by the federal government based on the information you provide in your FAFSA.

Will my union see the information on my FAFSA?

Only the US Department of Education and the financial aid office at EGCC will know your grant status. Your privacy is protected.

I am confused by the FAFSA. Can you help?

We are happy to advise you on how to fill it out. Give us a call at (740) 266-9992 or (330) 480-0726. You can also check out the information HERE.

How do I qualify?

To qualify, OCSEA members who want to enroll in EGCC’s online programs will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and apply any federal or state financial aid, or employer grants or tuition reimbursement benefits, such as Union Education Trust, for which they show eligibility.

The U.S. Department of Education selects approximately 30% of all FAFSA applicants for a process called verification. Verification is the process by which an educational institution confirms accuracy of the data reported (or not reported) on an individual student’s FAFSA. During the verification process, information reported on the FAFSA is verified for accuracy against documentation submitted by the student and/or their parents. An application may be selected for verification at any time throughout the award year. Compliance with this verification procedure is required to remain eligible for the scholarship.

What if I am not eligible for any federal financial aid?

Even if it is determined that the student is not eligible for federal or state financial aid, or employer grants or tuition reimbursement benefits, a last dollar scholarship will be applied to any remaining balance for tuition and fees at EGCC. The cost of the books is included in the fees, so students will have no costs other than equipment (computers, software, etc.).

Tell me about Eastern Gateway Community College.

Eastern Gateway Community College is a public, open-access college located in Steubenville, Ohio, with sites in Youngstown and Warren. They are part of the University System of Ohio and regionally accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. They are committed to innovation and increasing quality educational opportunities for students in Ohio and across the country.

EGCC is one the fastest growing colleges in Ohio. They are a national Achieving the Dream Leader College, an American Association of Community Colleges School of Excellence, and are recognized nationally for their efforts to prepare a diverse student population for career success.

I already have an Associate Degree. Does this benefit extend to a Bachelor’s Degree?

We expect to offer a Bachelor Degree pathway beginning Spring 2017. The program will be predicated on the “2+2” model, where students can build on their Associate Degree to earn a Bachelor’s Degree.

Why should I earn college credit at EGCC if it’s not my local college?

Because EGCC is regionally accredited and regulated by the Ohio Department of Education, credits earned at EGCC can be transferred to other institutions across the country. The staff at the college is committed to helping students determine the right course of study that will help them continue their work at a college closer to their home.

Will my previous college work or work experience count at EGCC?

EGCC is committed to helping you earn your degree. Their Office of Transfer Evaluations will help you determine whether your previous college work will transfer into EGCC, and whether you are eligible for college credit for previous work experience, such as military work or public service. We understand that you have worked hard for the college credit you have earned and expect to transfer as much as you can toward your degree completion plan.

I'm worried I won't have time for college work.

EGCC's coursework is rigorous and meets the high standards of the state of Ohio and its accreditor, the Higher Learning Commission. We understand that not everyone can meet the same schedule. Therefore, EGCC’s highly qualified instructors provide an online, competency based learning format that gives students the opportunity to further their education while fulfilling responsibilities to both family and your career.

Classes are offered every 8 weeks during the semester.

Is online learning for me?

Online learning has helped many students overcome the scheduling challenges of completing their degree. However, the format is not everyone. Take the following self-assessment developed by Miami of Ohio University to see if this will work for you.

Online learning self-assessment test

Even as an online student at EGCC, you will have a comprehensive support system available to aid in your success, including access to your instructor through office hours and direct communication, an assigned academic advisor, an online writing center, free 24/7 access to online tutors.

I want to find out more. What do I do next?

You must complete the Membership verification form, the EGCC application, the FAFSA and supply needed documentation such as a high school transcript and any verification documents required to determine federal or state grant eligibility. Your enrollment counselor can walk you through each step along the way.

I know OCSEA is a great advocate for me and I want to officially join the union. How do I do that?

Please call OCSEA at 800-266-5615.