Council seeks to improve Ohio funding

Rachel Abbey

The state of Ohio is examining the way it funds higher education with the creation of the Higher Education Funding Study Council.

“They’re trying to have a better understanding of how we are funded and see if there is anything they can do to improve the efficiency and quality,” said Pat Myers, director of government relations.

The council was funded as part of the most recent budget bill, said Ohio House Representative Shawn Webster, chair of the council. It began in August, and the report is due at the end of May 2006. The council is looking at all aspects of higher education funding.

“Revenues changed in early June, and they had a little extra to work with,” said Jamie Abel, spokesman for the Ohio Board of Regents.

The state received $30 million more than had been expected and wanted to put some into higher education funding, Abel said. Before they made any decisions, the state wanted to figure out how it would be used best.

When the budget was being examined, some concerns were raised by universities about the Board of Regent’s formula for distributing funds, Webster said.

There was a provision to stop loss at colleges with declining enrollment, but some universities with small or moderate growth felt slighted. The council will specifically be looking at how funds are distributed, hoping to determine fairness.

Currently, the council is in the information gathering stage, said Richard Petrick, vice chancellor for finance and council member. Members have been meeting about every two weeks and listening to reports, briefings and updates on other committee’s progresses.

At the council’s fifth meeting on Sept. 28, members attended presentations about education-related bills and the capital budget process, Myers said. They also received an update of the Commission on Higher Education and the Economy’s recommendations, reviewing any programs started because of the 2004 report.

In the upcoming months, the council will look at issues affecting all areas of higher education, Myers said. Such issues include room and board fees, the role of university trustees and educational investment and growth.

The council will most likely set specific goals in December, Myers said.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].