Get that degree


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.

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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.