Governor urges higher education

Higher education is at the top of the list of concerns for Ohio’s new governor.

Gov. Ted Strickland said education is important to the future of Ohio’s economic growth.

In Strickland’s State of the State address earlier this month, he made clear he wants to use higher education to better Ohio’s economy.

Since 1996, Ohio’s average yearly tuition increase has been 9 percent, which is 47 percent higher than the national average for public institutions.

One of Strickland’s goals is to encourage more people to aspire to and complete college, along with staying in Ohio to build and rebuild the state. The second goal is to find efficiencies within universities and to control tuition.

Several groups around the state are working to meet similar goals.

The Ohio College Access Network is an organization that is built around the idea that no young person in Ohio should be deprived of a college education. This program is an attempt to close the gap for students who are caught in the financial range where they cannot receive financial aid, but the family does not have enough money to help pay for the education.

Know How 2 Go is another program created to help encourage young people to attend college. The group’s primary goal is to communicate with young students, from junior high and up, the importance of planning for college.

With these programs and the help of the state, Strickland said he would like to see an increase of more than 230,000 students graduate from college during the next decade.

“This is an ambitious but achievable goal,” Strickland said as he addressed University students last Wednesday. “This is not a final solution, but a step in the right direction.”

Beginning July 1, 2007, higher education would receive a 5 percent increase from State Share of Instruction, but Ohio’s 14 four-year public universities would have to agree to hold to a 0 percent increase in tuition.

The next year, SSI will give higher education a 2 percent increase in exchange for agreeing not to raise tuition more than 3 percent.

The Inter-University Council is comprised of all 14 of the four-year public universities in Ohio. The council, led by BGSU President Sidney Ribeau, is working to speak as one voice for public higher education.

Larry Weiss, associate vice president of University Relations and Governmental Affairs, also serves on the IUC and said it is appreciative of Strickland’s proposal.

“The IUC supports two things. First, it acknowledges the vital role of the economy of the state, and second, creating a compact between the state and higher education,” Weiss said.

Members of IUC are trying to work with the governor to make the compact workable for students.

“We are trying to work through the devil that’s in the details,” Weiss said.