Ohio moves forward on higher education

Published 9:56 am Tuesday, October 5, 2010

While there can be fierce areas of disagreement between the legislature and the governor, one issue that has unified members of both parties in recent years is the value of higher education, not only to the future success of Ohio students but the growth of our state’s economy.

State leaders have worked to hold the line on tuition costs and make significant investments in Ohio’s colleges and universities, while taking steps to improve access to higher education for students of all backgrounds and income levels.

For instance, a number of Ohio’s traditional four-year institutions, including Ohio University and Ohio State University, have begun to offer bachelor’s degrees at community college and regional campuses across the state.

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These degrees are not only cheaper—students earning a bachelor’s degree at a community college campus can save 23-57 percent off the cost of four years at the main university campus—but more convenient.

A person living in Londonderry, for example, can now get a bachelor’s degree at Ohio University-Chillicothe instead of going to Athens. OU has a similar agreement with Southern State Community College.

In addition, the University System of Ohio, which includes the state’s 14 public universities, 24 branch campuses, 23 community colleges, and more than 120 adult workforce education centers and training programs, has entered into agreements with the five largest commercial textbook publishers to make digital versions of certain textbooks available to Ohio students for a discount up to 70 percent off the list price of a new print volume.

Providing high quality educational opportunities for the lowest price possible, particularly in a difficult economy, is critical to strengthening our state’s workforce and making Ohio more attractive to prospective and existing employers.

Only a few short years ago, Ohio did not rate very well in sending people to college for degrees. But, while there is still a great deal of work left to do, we are now making noticeable progress in this area.

Between fall 2008 and fall 2009, total enrollment at Ohio’s colleges and universities jumped by more than 40,000 students from 499,080 to 544,164, according to data provided by the Ohio Board of Regents.

In addition, since 2006, there has been an across-the-board increase in the number of Ohioans ages 25-64 who have earned either an associate degree, bachelor’s degree or a graduate degree or higher.

In July, Bloomberg Businessweek ranked the top 30 cities in the country in which new college graduates can fare well, with numerous entry-level jobs, higher starting pay and affordable cost of living.

Only Texas had more cities on the list than Ohio. This report is promising news, and we have made some progress in keeping college graduates in Ohio, but we still have a long way to go do to improve the environment in our state for both businesses and workers of all ages.

Ohio has taken some important steps in recent years to help make a college degree more affordable and accessible for all Ohioans, and despite the state’s fiscal challenges, we must continue to do everything we can to keep working toward this goal.

Our success in this effort is critical to the future strength of our state’s workforce, the availability of jobs in our local communities and the growth of our economy.

I applaud the commitment that both Republicans and Democrats in our state have shown toward improving our higher education system, and I will work to ensure it remains a priority in the months and years to come.

John A. Carey is a member of the Ohio Senate and represents the 17th District. He can be reached at Ohio Senate, Statehouse, Columbus, Ohio 43215 or by phone at (614) 466-8156.