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Published: Saturday, 12/1/2012

Gov. Kasich rolls out revised college-funding plan

BY JIM PROVANCE
BLADE COLUMBUS BUREAU CHIEF

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

“We all have self-interests … ,” he 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 not a done deal. There are no dollar signs attached. Mr. Kasich is preparing to propose his second two-year budget to lawmakers in early February.

The plan talks about “rewards” for schools but doesn’t define the word.

“You’re a priority for us,” Mr. Kasich told university and college presidents gathered in his Statehouse office. “We’re not going to cut you. It’s not going to happen, but I’d like to figure out a way to do more for you.”

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 graduate from another school.

Schools would be “rewarded” for recruiting and graduating high-quality, nontraditional 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.

When asked whether a funding formula that rewards graduation could encourage schools to award diplomas to those who might not otherwise have earned it, Mr. Kasich said, “The universities know that if they’re going to get into grade deflation, you’re going to diminish the quality and reputation of their schools.”

University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs signed the commission’s report, but he was not on hand in Columbus for its release.

“The concept of going to outcome-based measures is an excellent one,” he said. “I support the idea, and I applaud Gov. John Kasich for thinking that way. … It’s long overdue.

“I believe in the long run that the University of Toledo is well ahead of the curve in working toward appropriate outcomes, but I do not believe that the current playing field is level,” he said. “Schools start from different positions, and we could have done a better job addressing that before comparing outcomes.”

He said a preliminary crunching of the numbers suggests UT would at least initially be “disadvantaged.”

“In the determinants for student success, we’re starting from behind,” he said. “We have had significant issues in preparedness here in northwest Ohio and issues with finances, which are the two biggest determinants of student success.”

Bowling Green State University President Mary Ellen Mazey, who attended the report’s unveiling, also praised the concept. But she also noted the school hasn’t fared as well as she’d like in early comparisons.

“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,” she said. “It’s the adult population in Ohio that we really haven’t educated, especially the 25 to 34-year-old.

“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.”

Jerome Webster, president of Terra State Community College in Fremont, called the inter-university cooperation that led to the report “historic,” recognizing the contribution that community colleges make to graduation rates in the state.

“Completion rates have been looked upon as affecting the institutions from which they graduated even if they started at a community college. The community college was recognized. That’s the intention of the report to get that recognition and a percentage of the completion of that student.”

Contact Jim Provance at: jprovance@theblade.com or 614-221-0496.



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