BOWLING GREEN -- More than half the students who enter public colleges or universities in Ohio leave without a degree. This week, the Complete College Ohio task force convened for the first time at Bowling Green State University to find ways to raise that number and improve Ohio's economic future.
The 31-member task force will meet twice more before giving a report of its findings at the board of regents' annual meeting Nov. 13.
Led by Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro, the task force Monday listened to presentations from three working groups about improving college readiness for high school students, keeping students on track while in college, and rewarding college students for progress and helping them plan for careers.
"The task force looked at how there isn't enough structure for students today. Better advising is needed for 18-year-olds trying to decide what to major in and what classes to take, so they can create a road map for success," said Mary Ellen Mazey, president of Bowling Green State University.
"Time can be the enemy when it comes to completing a degree. The longer it takes, the less likely you are to complete it," said Kim Norris, a board of regents spokesman.
Suggestions to combat this problem include improving the ease in which students can transfer credits between schools and helping high school students obtain Advanced Placement credits.
Ms. Mazey discussed the strategies BGSU has used to retain students. Its six-year graduation rate is 61 percent, far exceeding its predicted graduation rate of 47 percent.
The predicted rate is based on the makeup of BGSU's student body, 38 percent of whom are first-generation college students.
"We have a number of academic programs linked to student-life programs that are very supportive for students in the first two years of college, which is a critical time," she said.
Only 26 percent of adults in Ohio have bachelor's degrees, ranking it 38th out of the 50 states. Ms. Mazey speculated Ohio owes its poor performance to its history as an industrial state.
"Certainly a lot of people graduated from high school and went straight into manufacturing in the past, and now we're transitioning to a knowledge-based work force," she said. "Many times, companies, when they decide where to locate, look at the education level of the work force, so Ohio needs to be more competitive."