Only 26 percent of Ohio adults have a four-year college degree, compared with 31 percent nationwide. Each percentage point by which the state lags the national rate costs the Ohio economy an estimated $2.5 billion a year.
By 2018, a recent study projects, this state will have nearly a million new jobs that will require education after high school. If Ohio is to remain competitive in the national and global economies, it will have to graduate more of its residents from college, and keep more of them here once they earn their degrees.
A new program by the Ohio Board of Regents, which oversees the state’s system of public higher education, offers the prospect of addressing both objectives.
A task force report commissioned by the regents proposes 20 student-centered ideas for increasing college progress and completion in Ohio. Among them: Each public university should develop a specific plan for degree completion. Universities and public schools should work more closely together to prepare students for higher education, to reduce the need for remedial classes later.
Potential students, whether they are still in high school or in the adult work force, should have more ways to earn alternative college credit. Universities and community colleges should do more to support new and struggling students with orientation programs, academic advising, and counseling about graduation requirements. The schools should make clearer connections between college completion and career prospects.
Students should be eligible for incentives for earning their degrees on time. They and their families should have greater access to instruction in financial literacy and planning.
As part of the initiative, the Board of Regents has launched an online effort called OhioMeansSuccess.org. The program aims to help students find affordable ways to attend and finish college, get financial aid, transfer academic credits, and earn credentials.
Ohio needs a detailed strategy to increase its number of college graduates. Mary Ellen Mazey, president of Bowling Green State University, notes that “providing these opportunities to the citizens of Ohio, and supporting them during their college careers, is going to have a significant impact on the economic future of this state.”
At the same time, Gov. John Kasich seeks to tie state aid to public universities and colleges to improved graduation rates. The college completion program could help meet these short-term and long-term goals with equal success.