Candidates have big plans for education

In a total of 60 minutes, Kenneth Blackwell and Ted Strickland, Ohio’s candidates for governor, managed to discuss Ohio’s economy, future and, the biggest debate, higher education.

With two drastically different plans to help bring the state from its embarrassing rankings in recent studies about the rising price of a college education, Blackwell and Strickland let the other have it in Wednesday’s debate.

Republican Blackwell said Strickland’s plan practiced “soft bigotry.”

What did Democrat Strickland say?

Well, he brought out the big guns and compared Blackwell to current Gov. Bob Taft – a hefty insult if you think like we do.

Strickland called his opponent’s plan a “Taft-like blue ribbon panel.”

Despite all the insult slinging that always muddies political debates, the two candidates took the time to explain in detail their plans to monitor and help with the murderous costs of college.

This editorial board, like most of the general public, has not really heard enough about these plans to make a final decision about which, if either, sound the best. Thus, this “Our View” is intended to inform you and set the facts straight – sans insult and confusion.

First is the similarity. Yes, that is singular.

Both candidates agree that something must be changed when it comes to how the state gives financial support. University tuition is too high. They know this. They both say they want to change this or at least give the student a helping hand.

How do they intend to do that? We’ll start with Blackwell.

His goal is to work with the student rather than to have direct state support for individual institutions. By using student vouchers, the individual student would be given tuition money that could be spent at any school.

The good news? State colleges and universities could be forced to lower tuition so students have a larger incentive to attend. The bad news? Strickland said a similar Colorado program actually caused tuition costs to increase, as reported in the Akron Beacon Journal.

So what about Strickland?

He’s a little more vague, something Blackwell described as “smoke and mirrors.”

The Democrat plans to study ways to connect the amount of state support to its success in keeping up student retention, the number of graduates who have earned a degree in fields that keep up with Ohio’s changing economy (read: technology, liquid crystals) and its efficiency.

As a side note, all the above Strickland criteria for larger state funding are big goals for Kent State President Lester Lefton’s administration.

Strickland wants to have student savings accounts, which the state would contribute to.

The good news? Colleges and universities will be based on merit, not status. The bad news? As we said before, there’s not really a clear-cut plan with Strickland.

Either way, at least this issue is getting notice from the candidates. How many more degrees will go to waste when students take jobs just to pay off loans before the state realizes it isn’t really helping its residents?

What plan do you think is best? Let us know.

The above opinion is the consensus of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.