Kasich wants increased state funding tied to graduation rates

Carrie Blazina

Ohio Gov. John Kasich unveiled a proposal to college presidents Friday for revamped funding of the state’s public universities, which would tie half of the money to graduation rates.

The Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission, which is made up of officials and several college presidents, worked with Kasich to come up with several recommendations.

In a statement, Kent State President Lester Lefton supported the governor’s commitment to direct financial support toward programs’ graduate students who are “work-ready” for Ohio.

“At Kent State University, we are already doing just that, with curriculum aligned with the skills necessary for today’s job market,” Lefton’s statement read. “More college-educated students are needed for a thriving Ohio and nation, so we’ll willingly answer the call to support this new funding proposal to better serve all students across Ohio.”

Lefton signed the commission’s report as a member of the Inter-University Council of presidents, but he was not a member of the commission. He also was not present at Friday’s unveiling because he was in Detroit for the Mid-American Conference Championship game, according to Eric Mansfield, executive director of university media relations.

According to the Toledo Blade, Kasich praised the commission, which he said acted collectively to benefit the interest of the entire state, rather than jeopardizing funding for individual universities.

“We all have self-interest,” Gov. John Kasich said. “But then there are times when the sun kind of breaks through and people just put other people first. That is exactly what’s happened here.”

The proposal is part of a national trend to make public universities justify the money they receive by requiring them to meet certain benchmarks. Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett unveiled a similar plan in November.

In Ohio, the benchmark is the graduation rate; in Pennsylvania, it was affordability and accessibility for Pennsylvania students.

The Ohio report gives a timeline for when the recommendations could be phased in, but their approval is tied to Ohio’s budget, which is not set yet. The tie to graduation rates would take effect in the first year the recommendations are implemented.

According to the commission’s report, the recommendations are:

— To eliminate the separate funding formula for regional campuses in the second year of the two-year budget, which will be rolled out in early February and will take effect on July 1.

— To award universities that attract the best students into Ohio and keep them in the state for employment or continuing education.

— To repeal laws that place “artificial constraints” on regional campuses, such as separate approval processes for degree offerings.

— To develop a formula in the second year of the budget to reward a student’s successful completion of an associate degree.

— To reward schools that successfully train nontraditional and at-risk students.

The plan to tie the university funding to graduation rates would bring the funding percentage up from 20 percent to 50 percent, the report said.

Present at Friday’s unveiling were E. Gordon Gee, Ohio State University president and leader of the commission; Jim Petro, Ohio Board of Regents chancellor, and several other college administrators and officials.

Contact Carrie Blazina at [email protected].