OHIO — With one in six high school seniors planning to change their college plans in the fall, seven colleges and universities in Central Ohio are now banding together to encourage students to live local and learn local.

What You Need To Know

  • Students attending colleges in virus hotspots are looking too attend schools closer to home

  • Applications for enrollment will be accepted until the fall and colleges will work with students needing to transfer credits

  • With more students, additional financial aid can be given to students in need despite budget

Right now, 16 percent of high school students say they'll take a gap year, while others are choosing to stay close to home.

College presidents in central Ohio said they've already seen an increase of students checking out their institutions. Many of them are currently enrolled at other universities outside of the state of Ohio and in cities where there are virus hotspots.

With the possibility of an influx of students, college presidents said they're preparing now by adding online and on campus classes. That's in addition to making room for students needing financial aid despite budget cuts. 

"We're able to free up more financial aid the more students we get because for us, being able to serve more students in more classes allows us to use some of that revenue to help the students who have financial need," said John Comerford, president, Otterbein University.

They also said they're ready to work with students who need to transfer credits, while providing lower tuition rates in some instances. Ultimately, they all believe that students staying closer to home will impact the economy and local communities around them. 

"The force multiplier effect of having those students stay in the region, build their careers here, raise their families here is really what is gonna change the trajectory of Columbus and central Ohio,” said David Harrison, president, Columbus State Community College.

Based on a recent study of students across the country, a number of high school seniors who planned to go to a four year university say they'll now go to a community college. Capital, Franklin, Ohio Dominican, Ohio Wesleyan, Columbus State, CCAD and Otterbein universities are part of the initiative. Several said they plan to accept applications until the fall to help students who are struggling with what moves to make next.