Chancellor: School plan builds economy

The chancellor of Ohio’s Board of Regents came to the University yesterday to discuss his plan for higher education’s future in the state.

Eric Fingerhut met with administrators and faculty for about an hour to answer questions about his 10-year master plan for the University System of Ohio, an initiative to improve coordination among the state’s public colleges and universities.

Fingerhut said the system promotes higher education’s role in building the state’s economy.

“This state needs people,” Fingerhut said. “What else is going to bring people to the state of Ohio if not our public institutions?”

Under the USO, schools would work with the chancellor to decide what strengths they want to use to distinguish themselves from other schools in Ohio.

Distinguishing schools would provide a chance to market a collective of “world-class” education choices throughout the state, Fingerhut said.

He added that the goal would be to cut back redundancies that lead schools to compete with one another for the same students.

The state would expect each school to excel in their chosen fields and state funding would hinge in part on their success.

“We want to tell the story of public higher education in the state … but we also want to plan together,” Fingerhut said.

But some faculty still had concerns about the program, such as whether it would mean being forced by the state to eliminate other programs.

Fingerhut said the state would not force schools to cut anything.

But, “every university can’t excel at everything,” he said.

“You need to identify those centers of excellence – you need to make choices,” he said.

Those centers could range from research to attracting out-of-state students.

“Some of our universities have shied away from making those difficult choices.”

With the plan’s focus on economic growth, others expressed concern about the future place of arts in schools.

Fingerhut responded that “creativity and a breadth of knowledge” remained “fundamental” to economic success.

The chancellor has been traveling the state in recent months on similar visits at universities.

He meets student leaders tomorrow before touring the campus.

Fingerhut must present his plan to the Ohio legislature in March, and said the visits were to maximize transparency and dialogue as the master plan comes into focus.

“When we have a plan on March 31, no one’s going to be surprised about its contents,” he said.