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Published: Wednesday, 11/28/2007

Chancellor spells out goals for higher ed in Ohio

BY MEGHAN GILBERT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Increasing the number of people with affordable, quality degrees and promoting economic leadership is Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut's plan for the state's colleges and universities.

Mr. Fingerhut has developed four specific goals - educational attainment, quality, affordability, and economic leadership - and measurements for their success.

Throughout the month, he has posted each on the Internet for public input. The last one was posted Monday.

The goals and their measurements will be incorporated into a 10-year master plan the chancellor has been directed to create to guide the University System of Ohio. It is due on Gov. Ted Strickland's desk March 31.

Mr. Fingerhut said the hardest part in any planning process is deciding what is more important than something else.

He could have made a list of hundreds of goals because colleges are involved in so many things, he said, but having a nar-row focus will ensure success.

"We felt one of the reasons our higher education system hasn't performed as well as it should is we haven't been as focused on our performance and on the things that matter most to the people of the state of Ohio," he said. "This piece is so important because we have to really have a good agreement with the people, what is it we're going to accomplish, and what are we going to report back about the progress."

After a day to digest the plan, college and university leaders in northwest Ohio said they were encouraged by its direction.

University of Toledo President Dr. Lloyd Jacobs said it's on the right track, specifically the economic leadership aspect.

"Connecting education to economic development strikes me as not only correct, but very smart and very politically savvy," he said. "It is our strongest hope for the sort of revival of the Midwest economy,"

BGSU President Sidney Ribeau said the chancellor's goals are in line with the national discussion - economic development and quality of life - and strike the right balance of access to education while maintaining quality.

"You can probably gain access for thousands of students if you just put 500 students in a freshman composition course, but could they learn how to write?" he said. "You want access, but you want access to quality."

Christa Adams, president of Owens Community College, said community colleges have been focused on educational attainment and affordability since their inception.

The open dialogue in developing the university system is important for the public and legislators to understand what colleges do for the state so they know it's worth the investment, Terra Community College President Marsha Bordner said.

"There is a genuine sea change in the attitudes of the legislators and the government in general, and we really need to capitalize on the inertia we have created," she said. "There's a whole new vision for what things might be."

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:

mgilbert@theblade.com

or 419-724-6134.



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