A year ago this month, a new Ohio Board of Regents chancellor was appointed by the governor, and the Ohio General Assembly was charged with developing a 10-year, statewide master plan for Ohio’s public two-year and four-year colleges and universities. Today, after a yearlong process of discussion, deliberation and planning with higher education leaders, the business community, and other state and national constituencies, Chancellor Eric Fingerhut will submit his master plan to the governor and General Assembly.
Pathway to the plan
In August 2007, Gov. Ted Strickland issued an executive order that created the new “University System of Ohio,” a statewide higher education system that includes 13 public universities, one medical college, and 23 technical and community colleges. The governor stated that his goals in creating the new college and university system were to increase access and affordability at Ohio’s public higher education institutions, emphasizing that the educational attainment level and quality of the state’s work force are critical factors in Ohio’s economic development. Fingerhut has said that the educational attainment level of Ohio’s work force is the most important goal and the core element of his recommended master plan.
Below is a brief summary of several of the key features of the chancellor’s recommended master plan. It is important to note that Fingerhut’s plan sets goals that are to be achieved over a 10-year period, and that each college or university will be expected to identify goals that are appropriate to its mission and academic strengths. Moreover, not all higher education institutions will be expected to meet all goals or metrics outlined in the plan. Key features of the chancellor’s proposed plan include:
• Mission differentiation and funding
The plan recommends that the 13 public-university main campuses have distinctive missions, with nationally recognized centers of excellence that are supported by externally validated measurements. These centers of excellence will be drivers of the global competitiveness of the economy both statewide and in the region where the university is located. Each institution will identify these centers of excellence, together with specific goals and the means by which progress toward these goals will be measured, in a report to the chancellor by Dec. 31. The plan further states that the chancellor will make future funding decisions and recommendations based upon goals and metrics submitted by each institution.
In order to meet the governor’s goal of enrolling 230,000 more college students in Ohio by 2017, the plan recommends that community colleges and four-year universities work more closely together to develop additional dual-enrollment, dual-admissions and “2+2” programs. In addition, a seamless transfer-credit system among the state’s community colleges and four-year universities will be developed and implemented.
Expanded access to online courses and distance learning, and a focus on nontraditional students (including adult learners) are other key issues related to access and increasing the educational attainment level of the state. The University System of Ohio will also increase its high school students’ participation rates in the Post Secondary Enrollment Options Program and the governor’s newly established Seniors to Sophomores program.
The plan proposes that by 2017, the average amount an in-state, undergraduate student pays to receive a public higher education in Ohio will be among the lowest in the nation. This will be accomplished through a combination of increased state funding over the next 10 years, increased private fund-raising for need-based financial aid, and state-approved tuition flexibility for boards of trustees, within specified guidelines. In addition, the plan calls for a network of high-quality, low-cost campuses within 30 miles of every Ohioan that will offer associate and bachelor’s degrees needed for economic advancement. It states that the facilities of both existing community colleges and regional campuses will be utilized to meet this goal.
• Quality and accountability
The plan identifies specific metrics for each of the goals established and states that these accountability measures will be used to track progress toward meeting the goals of the system. In addition to the plan’s identified metrics, all universities will participate in the “Voluntary System of Accountability,” making data available to the public on each university’s Web site regarding price, financial aid, degree programs, retention and graduation rates, campus safety, student satisfaction and engagement, and student learning outcomes.
All universities will administer and report on the National Survey on Student Engagement, and also administer one of several nationally recognized assessment instruments to evaluate institutional performance on general-education learning outcomes such as critical thinking, analytical reasoning and communication.
• Technology infrastructure
The plan calls for a single, integrated technology structure for the University System of Ohio that will provide a common application system; access to information on admissions, enrollment and transfer credits, and other information and services for students and families.
• Partnerships with the business community
In order to retain more graduates in the state, the plan calls for the University System of Ohio to establish a compact with the business community to expand the number of students participating in co-ops and internships. It also calls for annual surveys of business satisfaction with higher education.
• Recruitment of international students
The plan calls for increased efforts to recruit international students to Ohio’s universities in order to retain talented students who will contribute to Ohio’s economic development and help fill its need for a highly skilled work force.
Among other key components of the chancellor’s proposed plan are the enhancement of teacher education in Ohio, an expanded role for colleges of education in relation to K-12 schools and policy development, increased collaboration—and less competition—among Ohio’s public colleges and universities, and increased collaboration between Ohio’s public universities and the state’s private higher education institutions, both at the institutional and system levels.
Over the next few months, the General Assembly will review the recommendations in Fingerhut’s master plan, and the higher education community will continue to engage in discussions with the chancellor regarding the details of the plan and the future of higher education in Ohio. At the same time, Fingerhut will conduct a higher-education funding consultation and begin discussions with higher education leaders on how best to align future state-funding allocations with the plan’s goals, beginning with the next biennial budget (2009-11).
Additional information regarding the proposed 10-year master plan for higher education will be available today (March 31) on the University System of Ohio Web site at www.universitysystem.ohio.gov.
Faculty, staff and students with any questions about the plan may also contact Sandra MacNevin, associate vice president for governmental affairs, at 2-5301 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.