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Published: Friday, 2/9/2007

Regents want larger role, Strickland plan

BY JOSHUA BOAK AND JIM PROVANCE
BLADE STAFF WRITERS

COLUMBUS - The Ohio Board of Regents yesterday endorsed letting the governor select its chancellor and requested expanded powers to coordinate higher education statewide, including the authority to set the range for college tuition increases.

The proposed legislation would make the chancellor a cabinet-level position, but the regents would decide the chancellor's salary and duties.

"We believe this important statewide responsibility requires an independent citizen board which can span the individual interests of Ohio's institutions and which has the necessary operational authority to achieve both immediate and long-term goals," regents chairman Donna Alvarado said in a statement.

The regents suspended their search for a new chancellor last month after Ohio House Speaker Jon Husted (R., Kettering) and Gov. Ted Strickland announced plans to have the chancellor report directly to the governor in order to improve college access and graduation rates.

The bipartisan agreement led to speculation that the regents would be reduced to having little, if any, say in major higher education decisions.

"Under the governor's proposal, the board would have to change," Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said. "The board's resources would be under the authority of the chancellor. We're not saying the board will be abolished. It could serve as an advisory board."

Mr. Dailey said the regents' proposal failed to satisfy the governor's standards, because the chancellor would continue to "serve at the direction of the board."

Jaime Abel, a regents spokesman, said he was uncertain whether the proposal's language meant the regents could fire a gubernatorial appointee because there are a lot of details that need to be worked out.

Earlier this week, Mr. Husted said he welcomed further discussion about the board's fate.

That debate revolves around the question of whether oversight of higher education should be entrusted to a democratically elected governor or a relatively apolitical state agency.

In addition to controlling tuition increases, the regents' proposal would give them the authority to create a statewide community college system, coordinate purchasing among all public colleges, and stop any state government subsidies to degree programs they view as redundant.

The proposal also would allow the governor to appoint new regents each year, instead of appointing three new regents to the nine-person board every three years.

Contact Joshua Boak at:

jboak@theblade.com

or 419-724-6728.



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