Chancellor offers look at partial draft of master plan

Jackie Valley

COLUMBUS — Chancellor Eric Fingerhut stressed the importance of increasing degree production aiding the state’s economy during the Board of Regents meeting yesterday.

Fingerhut offered the first glimpse of a partial draft for the master plan for the University System of Ohio, citing the need to change the state’s economy while improving institutions and educational attainment.

Fingerhut said increasing the number of citizens with degrees will only benefit Ohio if they remain in the state after degree completion.

“If they don’t stay here, we have not changed the state,” he said. “We have become very aware that our responsibility is to change the state.”

The draft of the plan includes four overview goals — access, quality and accountability, affordability and quality of life — with key action steps for each goal and 17 measures of success.

Fingerhut said he lifted educational attainment from the 17 measures originally proposed and framed it as a “super metric” in the promise of the University System of Ohio.

The promise vows the system will provide the leadership to “continuously improve the educational attainment level of Ohio’s workforce and close the gap between the educational attainment level of Ohio’s workforce and the leading states and nations.”

David Creamer, senior vice president for administration, said it is essential to increase the number of citizens with degrees while minimizing the amount of students leaving the state for jobs elsewhere.

“It’s a dual problem from the standpoint that you can’t just focus on having more students attend,” he said, adding there needs to be jobs available in the state for students afterward.

Fingerhut said creating an entrepreneurial

climate and increasing participation of internships and co-ops will help graduates find jobs within Ohio.

In addition, he said the Choose Ohio First Scholarship Program is considering giving scholarships to attend graduate programs in Ohio to Ohioans receiving bachelor degrees in science from other states.

Currently, Fingerhut said about one-fifth of the state’s workforce is engaged in some form of educational training.

“We need to do better than that,” he said. “The only way we’re going to do better is partnerships with the business community.”

Fingerhut also clarified the measurement of success that is based on the number of students in the top 20 percent of their class or top 20 percent of SAT/ACT scores.

He said the measurement does not suggest that the state should only educate the best students. Instead, he said the institutions’ ability to attract top students is a measure of their quality.

To help ensure quality and accountability, a key action step is the participation of all universities in the Voluntary System of Accountability, which makes data available regarding price, financial aid, degree programs, success, retention, campus safety, future plans of graduates, student satisfaction and student learning outcomes.

Aside from the public universities, Fingerhut said the existence of two-year public institutions are “powerfully important” due to their economic value, ability to increase educational attainment level of the adult workforce and position as a gateway to a four-year degree.

One of the key action steps under affordability calls for the system to “diversify funding sources” — a point Fingerhut said is critical to the success of the plan, not an indication of privatization.

“I personally believe that we have been in a trap of seeing the sources of funding are tuition and state support,” he said. “We can’t predict what each year will look like for the next 10 years of the state.

“The idea here is by diversifying funding, we are able to smooth out the bumps in the road.”

Ultimately, Fingerhut said each public institution will help achieve certain measurements of success as part of the University System.

“Each institution will respond differently,” he said. “Not every institution is expected to contribute equally.”

Next on Fingerhut’s agenda is sharing the partial draft with the public and beginning the process of writing the text for the key action steps.

“We’re moving toward hopefully having a first draft of the full report by the end of the year,” he said.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].