There was quite a meeting of the minds in Gov. John Kasich’s office, as the presidents of many of Ohio’s public universities and community colleges gathered to put forward their ideas on improving Ohio’s public education system. Statehouse correspondent Karen Kasler reports on their reform plan.
31 presidents representing Ohio’s 14 public universities, 24 regional campuses and 23 community colleges sat in the Statehouse Cabinet room, facing Gov. John Kasich. The governor was flanked by Chancellor Jim Petro, who oversees Ohio’s higher education system, and Gordon Gee, who as Ohio State University’s president is clearly the education leader everyone listens to – as evident by the fact that the meeting was held up by a few minutes till Gee arrived.
“Hi, Gordon. How are you?”
“Always late.” (laughter)
While the gathering of the heads of the state’s higher ed leadership was unique, the reforms they brought forward have been talked about before – such as institutions working together to make a single capital improvements list of individual lists. But the governor says there’s a new focus on results and incentives.
“The greatest motivation for me when I was getting educated as a kid K-12 was that my parents would not let me play baseball if I didn’t make the honor roll. Ok? I didn’t understand till later that if I didn’t get certain things, I couldn’t be certain things, and then I started getting more motivated. That’s where I want us to go and I hope – and we’re going to work together.”
Under the plan, as presented by Gee on behalf of the group, half of all state funding for state colleges and universities would be tied to the schools’ ability to graduate students, not just to enroll them.
“It’s about completion. It’s not about rewarding people for being warm bodies. It’s about rewarding people for completing what they’ve done and for us then making a bright future for them.”
For four year institutions, that’s a big increase over the funding now tied to graduation, which is right now about 20%. But Gee says there won’t be a temptation to pad the data to get more money.
“One issue that I can assure you that we will make sure that we do not have is a process whereby people are rewarded for ‘body completion’ – they’re rewarded for ‘quality completion’, and that will be part of the incentive process, so we have already talked about that.”
And the plan also would reward universities for attracting top students and then keeping them in Ohio after graduation. It seeks to repeal rules on regional campuses that main campuses don’t have, and to eliminate the separate formula for funding main campuses versus regional ones. For community colleges, there would be rewards for training non-traditional and at-risk students and for students who successfully complete associates’ degrees. But for many parents and students, the question is not about state money, but about the money they have to shell out for tuition and other college costs. Ohio University president Roderick McDavis says these incentives will force the institutions to help kids focus and get out more quickly.
“If you complete a college degree in less than four years, you’re saving money. What now we begin to do is put more advisors in place, to put more counselors in place, to put more people in place who can carve out a pathway to help students understand you can reach your goals sooner.”
While there’s a lot of talk of rewards, there aren’t many specifics in these recommendations on what the rewards will be and how success will be measured. But Gee says this is a journey, and is just the first of ten rounds.