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State funding for higher ed will be a collaborative effort



Published: Sun, September 16, 2012 @ 12:00 a.m.

Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who has launched various initiatives to make state government more cost-effective and efficient, has come up with a new system for funding the state’s public colleges and universities that will either treat all fairly, or result in winners and losers.

For the sake of Youngstown State University, an open admission, urban institution that caters to students who often are the first to pursue higher education in their families, we hope fairness rules the day.

We do take comfort in the fact that this collaborative system of divvying up state dollars for colleges and universities was used with great success earlier this year for construction projects at the 37 public institutions.

While no entity got everything it wanted, none was left out in the cold. Of the $350 million to be spent over the next two years, $13.46 million will be coming to YSU, Eastern Gateway Community College, Kent State University at Trumbull, Kent State at Salem and Northeast Ohio Medical University.

YSU, which decided to focus on projects that deal with maintaining current buildings, rather than building new, was approved for $9.4 million.

The key to the success of the capital projects initiative was the guiding principles established by the special commission that was formed by Kasich. The governor tapped Dr. Gordon Gee, president of Ohio State University, to lead the commission — a move that was well received by the higher education community. Gee showed great finesse in dealing with all the university and college presidents who were used to the turf wars of the past.

Gee’s leadership so impressed the governor that he has chosen Ohio State’s president to lead the statewide collaboration of the 37 institutions in determining the formula for allocating the $1.5 billion that will be available in the 2014 biennium.

The commission that will develop the formula and policy for allocating the state dollars will consist of Gee and the presidents of Cuyahoga Community College, Ohio University and Wright State University.

While the panel represents a cross section of higher education in Ohio, we think a university like YSU that makes higher education accessible to a segment of the population that has not historically been served should have been included.

The fact that the new funding formula will not be based on enrollment but on retention and graduation rates, cost control, commercialization and student remediation does force urban institutions to find new ways of educating students.

Performance

Although the de-emphasis on enrollment and focus on retention and graduation have been in place for some time, the new funding mechanism will also be based on performance.

YSU is losing enrollment, which has exacerbated its financial difficulties caused by the cuts in state funding. The board of trustees has raised tuition four years in a row.

At one time, YSU received about 75 percent of its operating budget from Columbus; today, it’s down to 18-20 percent.

We urge OSU President Gee and members of the commission to consider YSU’s mission when determining how state dollars should be allocated.

Youngstown State is meeting a specific need in Ohio, which warrants recognition by the Gee commission.


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