Kasich, state's universities and colleges talk new funding plan


COLUMBUS — Public universities and colleges would be rewarded more for graduating students than enrolling them and more for keeping them in Ohio after handing them their diplomas under a new funding plan developed by the schools and embraced by the governor today.

“We all have self-interest…,” Gov. John Kasich said. “But then there are times when the sun kind of breaks through and people just put other people first. That is exactly what’s happened here.”

The broad framework developed by the Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission is far from a done deal — just the first round of 10, as Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, put it. No dollar signs are yet attached as Mr. Kasich prepares to offer his second two-year budget proposal to lawmakers in early February.

The plan talks about “rewards” for schools, but Mr. Kasich stressed that the word hasn’t yet been defined.

He noted that some schools were willing to put themselves at risk.

“We’re not going to let you fail, even if we have bumps along the road,” he told university and college presidents gathered around a conference table in his Statehouse office.

Under the proposal, funding earmarks that previously followed student enrollment will focus instead on school success in graduating those students. Academic credits would be more easily transferred from community colleges to four-year institutions, and those community colleges would get partial credit when these students ultimately graduate from another school.

Schools would be “rewarded” for recruiting and graduating high-quality, non-traditional students, and at-risk students.

For four-year institutions, 50 percent of state funding would be directed toward degree completion during the first year of the next budget, up from 18 percent currently. The report does not indicate how “success” in keeping high-quality graduates in Ohio for further education and employment would be measured.

“I was in Ohio for 25 years down at Wright State (in Dayton), and I always saw down there that the formula was always input (enrollment) driven, and this formula is very output (completion) driven,” said Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey.

She said the school hasn’t fared as well as she’d like in early comparisons of the current funding formula and what the next one might look like.

”I think we need to work on that,” Ms. Mazey said. “Bowling Green has traditionally looked primarily at the 18-year-old, and when I got there I said we need to look at the adult population as well. It’s the adult population in Ohio that we really haven’t educated, especially the 25 to 34-year-olds.

“It’s going to be incumbent upon us to expand our programming and have greater flexibility to our curriculum and expand our student base,” she said. “We haven’t probably recruited as many international students as we should.”

University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs had signed the commission’s report, but he was not present at today’s unveiling.