Making college work


Ohio universities produce plenty of talented, well-trained graduates every year. Persuading them to stay here has been a problem. A new state initiative may be part of the solution.

The Ohio Board of Regents plans to distribute $11 million in seed money to 10 Ohio colleges and 13 public or private universities to create as many as 3,500 internships and co-ops at 1,500 businesses across the state. Casino licensing fees will pay for the project.

Locally, the University of Toledo, Bowling Green State University, and Terra Community College will receive grants to participate. Businesses such as Cedar Fair, Whirlpool, Heinz U.S., and Owens Corning have agreed to contribute matching funds to hire interns and offer co-op opportunities.

The hope is that connecting students with employers will result in job offers and encourage more local graduates to keep their roots here rather than seek greener pastures elsewhere. Ohio produces a lot of college graduates, but lags behind most other states in its percentage of residents with a college or advanced degree.

The internship idea originated with former Gov. Ted Strickland and current Secretary of State Jon Husted. It was part of a push to make colleges a source of economic growth. Gov. John Kasich has expanded the idea to include tailoring curricula to work-force demands.

Ohio has lost hundreds of thousands of manufacturing jobs in recent years. Every year, Ohio college graduates pack their bags for other states because they think past job losses mean there won’t be jobs for them here.

The reality is different: Although many jobs have been lost, some have come back. New opportunities are developing in aerospace, aviation, bio-health, energy, financial services, information technology, and solar research — but they require a highly educated work force.

Other states have forged effective links between employers and college students. But if meeting work-force needs becomes too narrowly focused, as it might with Mr. Kasich’s proposal to allow students to graduate from state higher-education institutions in three years, the mission of colleges and universities to produce an educated citizenry could be lost.

A well-rounded education is not the enemy of specialized training or career opportunities. Employers who compete to recruit students from colleges that have strong academic reputations, sometimes without regard to what the graduate majored in, are proof of that.

Ohio’s economic development needs are best served when the state’s institutions of higher learning produce graduates who are both highly trained and broadly educated.