Choose Ohio First

Ohio Northern University is excited to announce it has received a total of $2.6 million from two Choose Ohio First (COF) grants for STEM student recruitment and retention. The funding from the State of Ohio and Ohio Department of Education will assist students studying science (including health professions), technology, engineering and mathematics. The funding is intended to address the skilled labor shortages STEM professions are increasingly experiencing.

“We’re very thankful for this extraordinary opportunity to offer extra financial assistance and academic guidance to so many Ohio Northern University students. Our Choose Ohio First STEM graduates will go on to fill vital jobs that will help countless Ohioans,” said President Dan DiBiasio. 

The award includes a $1 million five-year grant to recruit and support each STEM cohort during their educational journey and a $1.6 million completion grant for a four-year program to support previously recruited and enrolled COF scholars to finish their degree. 

ONU is focusing on increasing enrollment in the following fields of study: biomedical sciences, civil engineering, environmental and field biology, exercise physiology and strength and conditioning, medical laboratory science, medical physics, molecular biology, nursing, pharmacy, public health and prep-professional preparatory fields for medicine, occupational and physical therapy and physician assistant occupations. 

These grant-funded efforts are expected to help alleviate projected worker shortages in crucial health care and infrastructure professions, particularly those that serve the growing elderly population. The goal is to enroll 25-35 students per year in ONU’s Choose Ohio First program, with each receiving awards ranging from $2,000 -$3,000. There will be a focus on recruiting more diverse, disadvantaged and traditionally underrepresented individuals.

Three factors informed Ohio Northern’s decision to pursue Choose Ohio First funding: COVID-19’s current and future impact on health care workers and infrastructure; an aging Ohio population straining health care human and structural resources; and a health worker shortage predating the pandemic, especially in rural areas.

Also, using additional fiscal and organizational resources to prepare students to fill Ohio’s workforce needs “is a tangible way for Ohio Northern to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2021,” the University added in its grant application.

Scholarships will be awarded based on student merit, financial need and underrepresentation as it relates to the overall student body and to the population in specific COF majors. Recipients will then receive additional support in a variety of ways throughout their entire degree program, which will help them develop a sense of academic, professional and social belonging and purpose; and acquire skills for lifelong success and service. Continuing scholars will serve as mentors to first-year COF scholars.

According to the ODE Chancellor Randy Gardner, providing STEM scholarships “will help improve Ohio’s workforce development capacity to innovate and grow our economy.”