Education, from kindergarten to college, figured prominently in Gov. Ted Strickland’s State of the State address Feb. 6. Boosting the educational attainment of all Ohio citizens is the key to the state’s future, the governor said.
“We know that higher education is the major economic driver of our economy,” Strickland said, announcing a plan to expand on former Gov. James Rhodes’ initiative to put a community college in the vicinity of every Ohioan. Noting that Ohio has a higher-education infrastructure that rivals any in the country, Strickland said the next step is to insure access and affordability for all citizens.
“Today I’m announcing that the 10-year plan for the University System of Ohio will guarantee that a high-quality associate and bachelor’s degree in the academic fields necessary to land a good job will be available on a campus within 30 miles of every Ohioan,” he said. The governor cited the partnership between Miami University and Sinclair State Community College as an example of a collaboration aimed at this goal.
Increasing financial aid funds from public and private sources will be one way to help make education affordable to all, said Strickland, who is attempting to preserve funding for higher education in the next state budget.
(For the full text of the speech, visit http://governor.ohio.gov/Default.aspx?tabid=835.)
‘Seniors to Sophomores’
Strickland also called for increasing the number of college graduates in the state, in part by changing the mindset of high school graduation as an end in itself, he said. To accomplish this, the governor announced an expansion of the Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program in which qualifying high school students may take college courses.
Introducing his new “Seniors to Sophomores” initiative, he said he has instructed Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Eric Fingerhut to “give every 12th-grader who meets the academic requirements a choice of spending their senior year in their home high school, or spending it on a University System of Ohio campus. Tuition for the year will be free.”
The state will begin enrolling students in the program for the upcoming school year, Strickland said. “Participating seniors will then graduate from high school ready to start their sophomore year in college. In fact, students will receive their high school diploma and one full year of college credits at the same time. The credits will transfer in full to public institutions, as well as many private colleges,” he said.
His proposed House Bill 424, which creates the expanded “dual enrollment” program, calls for reimbursement to the institution—including tuition, textbooks, materials and other fees directly related to the courses taken—from the student’s school district, community or STEM school, or state set-aside for nonpublic school students.
To qualify for reimbursement, all PSEO courses must be taught by an individual with at least a master’s degree in the content area.
Dr. Shirley Baugher, provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the governor's “Seniors to Sophomores” proposal is “an exciting program to provide a higher education to a broader set of Ohioans. It is well suited for the best and brightest students, and it's feasible.
“Bowling Green is supportive of low-cost options for students. Right now, we have 114 high school students attending classes on the main campus through the PSEO program, and 125 high school students attending classes through an Ohio Department of Education grant-funded dual enrollment program at BGSU Firelands.
“Still, there are many details to be worked out in the new proposal. Currently, each institution that offers the PSEO program determines its own admissions standards for students. We anticipate that the governor's new program will identify statewide admission standards for the program, perhaps the junior ACT scores, to determine if students are ready for college-level work. We would also envision a significant role for our branch campus. Strengthened collaborations among branch campuses and community colleges position us to develop select bachelor's and master's degree programs. The infrastructure and support systems, such as our library holdings and technology for course delivery, support the quality needed to address our common mission to serve Ohio's citizens.”
Strengthening K-12 education
Strickland also announced plans to significantly reform K-12 education in the state, both through funding and programming. While recent assessments show Ohio’s public education system to be fairly strong among the states, “it has not kept pace with the rest of the world,” he said. In the current globally competitive environment, Ohio must draw upon two of the strengths of its system—its ability to foster creativity and innovation—to move forward, he added.
As he did in making the chancellor of higher education a Cabinet position, he announced that he is creating the position of Director of the Department of Education, appointed by him and approved by the Senate. The state superintendent and state board of education will be advisory to that position, he said. The director will have a direct line of responsibility and accountability for K-12 education.
This will “bring about real change and real results,” he predicted.
Based on his numerous meetings with parents, teachers, businesses and other constituents since taking office, Strickland said he had arrived at six points for educational reform, including making primary and secondary education more child-centered and using existing testing and assessment for the creation of individualized education programs based on each child’s learning styles.
“We must create learning environments that foster and nurture creativity, innovation and global competency,” he said.
BGSU up for the challenge
In response to the governor’s announcement, President Sidney Ribeau said, “This renewed emphasis on education is in keeping with Bowling Green State University’s commitment to serving Ohio’s citizens and creating lifelong learners who lead lives of personal fulfillment and contribute to their communities and state.”