Chancellor Petro presents Enterprise U plan in Columbus

Chancellor Petro’s new Enterprise University plan seeks to remove university mandates for all Ohio public universities and set high performance standards for schools who buy into the enterprise system.

“We looked at every state in the country and kind of got an idea of what looked good,” Petro said. “The enterprise idea is a partnership that is new. It means education isn’t just about lecture halls and notebooks; it’s about engaging students and the community and the university in the effort of business, in generating revenue, of being fully engaged, of being recognized for that engagement and of educating people along the way with that kind of engagement in mind.”

One of the stipulations added to the state budget passed in June directed Petro to create plans for a charter university system for Ohio public universities.

Petro presented his plan to a room full of public university presidents and trustee members in Columbus Thursday. His plan, which he said he hopes to present to the General Assembly to be passed by May 2012, works in two phases.

Phase One

The first phase would reduce and remove “45 to 50” state mandates placed on each of the 14 Ohio public universities.

“We have universities saying ‘boy, we are bogged down with lots and lots of mandates,’” Petro said.

He explained he believed if universities can operate more freely with less mandates, then they can find ways to save money and provide more learning opportunities to students.

Some examples of the “mandate relief” for universities in Petro’s plan are the allowance for Board of Trustees to determine term-length for Board officers, elimination of enrollment caps and the ability to set different tuition and fees for space and facility reasons — the plan suggests offering discount tuition to help fill unused facilities during “non-peak” hours to increase facility efficiency.

“Universities are slowed down by a variety of things that really, when you think about them, don’t make much sense anymore in today’s economy,” Petro said. “So the first legislative request will be ‘Members of the General Assembly, please look at this and consider repealing all those as it relates to all our universities.’

“Hopefully they’re going to follow that advice, but they may not,” he added.

Petro said he didn’t think the General Assembly would ever allow Enterprise Universities to remove state tuition caps.

“I don’t know that (the General Assembly) would ever be willing to give up that power.”

Phase Two

Phase two of Petro’s plan provides for universities to opt-in to an Enterprise University system.

Benchmarks to earn “International Enterprise University” status

1. Unallocated net assets of 30% of total operating expenses

2. 5-year graduation rate of 75%

3.1st to 2nd year retention rate of 85%

4. Endowment of 30% of total operating expenses

5. Research expenditures of $250,000,000 or more

6. STEM degree percentage of 20%

7. Affordability measured as a percentage of Consumer Price Index –

Bonus for institutions who lower tuition

8. 20% of FTEs participating in intern/co-op programs

9. Direct articulation partnership w/ community colleges

In order to become an Enterprise University, a university would have to invest a portion — 10 percent is the current proposal — of its State Share of Instruction to the Preeminent Scholars Award Foundation and agree to meet a number of fiscal and academic benchmarks set down by the Board of Regents.

Enterprise Universities that meet high benchmarks could then advance to become International Enterprise Universities. Those universities would receive the highest level of freedom through a reduction in mandates after meeting and sustaining seven of the nine benchmarks put down in Petro’s plan.

Preeminent Scholars Award Foundation

Petro’s plan suggests universities who want to participate in the Enterprise University system would invest 10 percent of their State Share of Instruction to the Preeminant Scholars Award Foundation — a scholarship fund aimed at keeping graduates in the Ohio job market.

“This is the exciting idea I think can, based on the merit of our young people, keep those smart kids in Ohio,” Petro said. “I think that’s important to our future.”

Petro explained the program would work to give a portion of a scholarship to a student who shows academic promise and then make the rest of that scholarship available to the student through tax credits should he or she choose to stay and work in Ohio.

The scholarship money wouldn’t go “in one big pot,” he added, each school would make their investment back by awarding scholarships to students attending their university.

Petro said he would like to see the scholarship fund work with two tiers, “The really good students and then the really, really good students.”

Those “really good students” would have a GPA of 3.5 or higher and the “really, really good students” would have a GPA of 3.8 or higher.

Where Kent State stands

“From what we’ve heard this sounds like a real interesting approach with the current economy,” said Jacqueline Woods, Board of Trustees chair. “The timing I don’t think could be better to look at both the system of education in Ohio and how we go about funding that while at the same time delivering excellent academic experience with a value and eye toward the cost. So we’ll have to study that.”

In the past, President Lester Lefton has said he also supports any opportunity the university has to increase financial stability.

“This is a work in progress, because as we continue to work on this, we continue to learn things and to uncover things. In fact, we’re trying to do as good a job as possible listening to all the affected constituencies as to where are the pluses and where are the minuses,” said Gary Cates, senior vice chancellor for the Ohio Board of Regents. “Before this is finally enacted by the legislature, I can assure you that there’ll be continued changes on this…I think this will be a positive thing for our state.”

To download the pdf of the Enterprise Univeristy plan, click here.

To read more on Chancellor Petro’s Enterprise University plan, visit OhioHigherEd.

Contact Summer Kent Stater editor Julie Sickel at [email protected].