Gov. Strickland, Dr. Nieman and Sarah Johnson

Gov. Ted Strickland (left) and Dr. Donald Nieman, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, listen as Sarah Johnson, a freshman broadcast journalism major from Berea, describes the BG Experience program.

Governor visits campus to discuss education budget

Gov. Ted Strickland aims to “reverse the disinvestment in higher education and begin the reinvestment” through a plan he promoted on campus March 28. “It’s important to do that not just for the students but for the state,” he said.

Gov. Ted Strickland
Gov. Ted Strickland

At a press conference hosted by President Ribeau, the governor outlined his proposals for the biennial budget. They include discontinuing aid to for-profit institutions not recognized by the Ohio Board of Regents, making financial aid more need-based and, most importantly for state colleges, calling for a tuition freeze for the next academic year.

In return, he said, the state will make a number of short- and long-term commitments to state colleges and universities, including a 5 percent increase in state share of instruction for those universities that adopt the tuition freeze next year and a promise of an additional 2 percent in 2009 for those that keep tuition increases at 3 percent or less.

The state’s economy has been basically flat since 1996, he said, and its lack of funding for higher education has resulted in yearly average tuition increases of 9 percent. Now, costs at Ohio’s public institutions are 47 percent above the national average. “I think this is problematic for us as a state because we need to encourage more of our people to go to college, to complete college and, once they do that, to stay here in Ohio and help rebuild this great state.

“There is no justification for Ohio being where we are,” he said. “It’s intolerable.” The high cost of college also limits people’s possibilities to attend graduate school and to pursue career options, he said, and often results in “crushing debt” for many.

President Ribeau (left) with Governor Strickland
President Ribeau (left) with Governor Strickland

Strickland said his “KnowHow2Go” program, aimed at preparing eighth-, ninth- and 10th-graders to go to college, and his “Close the Gap” fund, to assist students whose resources don’t meet the cost of college, are both parts of his plan to produce 230,000 additional Ohio college graduates by 2011. The ultimate goal is make the state a place where young people feel welcome and where they have opportunities to succeed. “People used to come to Ohio. It was seen as a place where you could have a future,” he said, adding that a more educated, productive population is critical to the state’s future.

When asked if the tuition freeze is feasible, Strickland replied that he hopes the presidents of the state institutions will seek and implement efficiencies and work with new OBOR Chancellor Eric Fingerhut to “develop a meaningful compact between the state and institutions of higher learning.”

Following the press conference, Ribeau said he does not yet know the implications of a tuition freeze but that it would be painful for BGSU.

The proposed budget has smaller growth than any in the last 42 years, Strickland said. Faced with “great need and limited resources,” he said, “we will live within our means and have a balanced budget and invest in those things that matter,” predicting “this will have a psychological as well as a political impact.”

He expects great debates in Columbus over his proposals, he said, now that the same party no longer controls both the legislature and the governor’s office. Describing that as a good thing, he said for too long the state government has been controlled by one party, and he looks forward to the “diversity of thought” in setting Ohio’s future.

Dr. Alden Craddock, School of Teaching and Learning, asked Strickland if he planned to address the loss of many of the state’s “best and brightest” young teachers, which Craddock attributed to the problems in K-12 education funding. Strickland named a number of measures he has planned to try to improve public education and make funding more equitable, citing the four times the state Supreme Court has ruled Ohio’s school funding system unconstitutional. Chief among those is a plan to “securitize Ohio’s tobacco settlement revenues,” which he said will bring in more than $5 billion, and use other resources to improve school buildings, improve parity and poverty aid to schools and make better use of school property taxes.

“If I don’t solve this problem, I will consider myself a failed governor,” he said.

April 2, 2007