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Strickland stresses education unification

As a former educator, Gov. Ted Strickland wanted to put a focus on improving higher education and its access for Ohioans.

Strickland visited Ohio University Southern on Friday touting a two-year freeze on tuition rates and additional funding that will be received by the state’s institutions of higher learning.

Besides discussing those points of the recently passed budget, Strickland also talked about The University System of Ohio, an initiative that calls for increased cooperation among the state’s universities, colleges and adult learning centers.

“We need to develop more collaboration and cooperation. No one institution, not even The Ohio State University, can meet all of the higher education needs of our people,” Strickland said. “But if you put all of our institutions together, we have all the resources and tools for Ohioans to get what they need when they need it.”

Strickland toured the OUS campus and met with students and educators in a variety of disciplines.

Strickland addressed a group of students involved in the STEM program and told them the state’s commitment to higher education is a necessity.

“You’re not just competing against people in West Virginia or Kentucky or Indiana or Michigan or Pennsylvania,” Strickland told the crowd. “You’re competing against people in Singapore and India and China and other places around the world.”

The STEM program, which aims to strengthen students is science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also received additional funding in the budget.

The high school students on hand Friday were wrapping up a three-week course where they stayed on the campuses of Rio Grande University, Shawnee State University and OUS. The students, who had to be accepted into the program, stayed at each location for one week and chose two of three categories to study — Spanish, Statistics and Chemistry.

“We receive credit hours for high school or college or both, depending on how well you do. This program gave us insight into college and the college experience,” said Kayla Shipley, of Winchester, a 16-year-old junior at North Adams High School who attended with classmates Whitney McClellan, 17, of Seaman, and Sarah Hardin, 16, of Seaman. “It was a great experience and we met a lot of great people. It was nice to meet and work with people who are focused.”

The students who completed two of the three subjects received $300.

Dan Evans, the OUS dean, said the commitment to higher education is welcomed. He added the effort to streamline higher education in Ohio also has tangible benefits for students.

“Ohio has been moving toward transferability, but it’s taken years,” said Evans, referring to students’ ability to have classes fully credited when they move from one institution to another. “If we’d had a system like this we could have moved much more quickly.”

Strickland said one of his priorities was to have the ability to appoint the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. The legislature granted him that authority and he appointed former state senator Eric Fingerhut.

The governor, a former educator at Shawnee State University, also spent time at SSU on Friday and said pooling the state’s educational resources will pay dividends.

“We think this is a major step forward,” he said. “This is a new day for higher education in Ohio.”