Thursday, January 31, 2008

Gov. Strickland’s Corrections Bill and Higher Education

This morning, Gov. Strickland announced that with his proposed legislation to reduce state government expenditures, he actually will help fulfill the promise of the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) by increasing funding.

While the governor’s proposal will reduce spending in other accounts, the major higher education accounts—OCOG, the Student Choice Grant for independent college students, and the State Share of Instruction for public colleges—will not be reduced. Instead, money will become available by changing the timetable for providing money under the new Choose Ohio First and Ohio Research Scholars programs. By shifting payments into future years, when the money is actually expended by campuses, and by committing to fully fund the program in future years, the governor has eased budget pressures this year.

More importantly, the governor has filled the hole in the budget for OCOG. OCOG is currently in its second year of a five-year phase-in, replacing the Ohio Instructional Grant, the former state need-based aid program. Budget estimates for this year and next were truly best guesses for a new program, and unfortunately, insufficient funds were budgeted for 2008-09 because of greater than expected eligibility. Options on the table could have included lowering the maximum income and need levels, eliminating many qualified students from the program.

The governor will use part of the shift in Choose Ohio First and Ohio Research Scholars funds into future years to fully fund OCOG scholarships today. Based on details available at this time, it appears to be another sound idea from the chancellor that will make effective higher education policy.

—C. Todd Jones

AICUO/OFIC Communicators Conference

Earlier this month, AICUO and the Ohio Foundation of Independent Colleges (OFIC) hosted our second annual communicators’ summit at Ashland University. The event brought several dozen staff from our campuses together to talk about responding to disasters and crises. Highlights included a panel that included Robin Bowlus from Bluffton University speaking about the media response to last spring’s bus crash, Lynda Sirk from Antioch College talking about the possible closure of the college, and Jack Hire from Denison University presenting on the colleges’ recent campuswide conversation about race (first picture).

The day began with a presentation from Bruce Hennes, Managing Partner for Hennes Communications, speaking on extreme crisis communications planning, implementation, and dealing with the media in a crisis. The participants also heard from local TV and newspaper reporters about their working relationship with colleges (second picture).

I want to extend my personal thanks to Sherry Mercurio of Franklin University, Tom Perry of Marietta College, Helen Rathburn of Baldwin-Wallace College, Robin Bowlus of Bluffton University and Steve Hannan of Ashland University, the organizing committee that made this event possible.

—Stacey Dorr

Ohio Research Scholars Program Receives Additional Appropriations

On Tuesday, January 29, the House Finance and Appropriation Committee heard sponsor testimony on HB 381, which legislatively authorizes the Ohio Board of Regents (OBR) to transfer $72 million from the Economic Growth Challenge, Third Frontier Commission, Eminent Scholars and Action and Investment line items and places it within the newly created Ohio Research Scholars Program (ORSP). Chancellor Eric Fingerhut called for the funds to be transferred a few months ago, but lacked the authority to do so.

The bill also permits nonpublic four-year colleges to submit proposals for the ORSP if the proposal is to be implemented in collaboration with a state college or university. This was Speaker Jon Husted (R – Kettering) and the Chancellor’s intent with the creation of the ORSP, but through drafting errors it was omitted from the budget bill’s language. Independent colleges are currently submitting RFPs for ORSP grants to OBR.

In addition to hearing testimony from the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Shawn Webster (R – Hamilton), the committee also heard from Fingerhut, who obviously supports the bill. AICUO supports the bill because it provides independent college research institutions with the opportunity to participate on a coequal basis with public research institutions in a program where the economic benefits to Ohio do not differ if the research occurs at a public or an independent university.

—Dustin A. Holfinger

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

A Campus Lawyers’—and Presidents’—Resource

Some web resources merit daily review. Other sites can divert you for a few minutes and are never seen again. But for me, only a few websites deserve repeated, non-regular review.

Catholic University’s Office of the General Counsel and its Campus Legal Information Clearinghouse (CLIC) is one of those latter places. The site is a joint venture with the American Council on Education. CLIC is designed to provide useful and timely information about topics of interest to university lawyers, but does so in a way that can appeal to non-lawyers interested in higher education law and regulation. In addition, with each topical section, there are further links to laws, publications, and other on-line resources. There is also a news-feed on the main page to recent items of interest.

A few of the new items that piqued my interest recently included the link to the summary of the law on sharing information concerning students where there is perceived risk of danger to self or others. The piece is an appendix to a report by a University of North Carolina Safety Task Force in November. I also enjoyed reviewing a relatively recent case on the intersection of tenure and discrimination (in CLIC’s Employment section), and the link to the NAFSA summary of last week’s regulations from the U.S. Department of State on changes to the Exchange Visitor Program.

—C. Todd Jones

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Student Poll Worker Bill Moving Along

Two weeks ago, Todd blogged on the importance of HB 350, a piece of legislation sponsored by Rep. Larry Wolpert (R – Hilliard) that would allow college students to work as election officials at the polls in the county in which they attend school, as well as their home county.

The House State and Local Government Committee heard testimony from the president of the Ohio Association of Election Officials, the executive director of the central Ohio branch of Kids Voting USA, and from two high school seniors who had the opportunity to work at the polls in the November 2007 elections.

A few of our colleges’ political science departments have shown an interest in passage of this bill, citing the first-hand experience that the students could gain through this opportunity. Although the students would miss one day of classes, the work done would probably correlate to the subject matter being learned at the time.

Chairman Dave Daniels (R – Greenfield) has tentatively scheduled the bill for its third hearing on January 31, and a possible vote on February 7.

Dustin A. Holfinger

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Chancellor Picks the Right Target

Ohio Board of Regents meetings are rarely the source of big announcements. Policy changes announced at its meetings tend to be incremental and seldom a surprise.

Yesterday’s meeting was different, and like many announcements during the Strickland administration, it was neither preordained nor foreshadowed. Before fewer than ten members of the public, Chancellor Eric Fingerhut demonstrated that the Strickland administration has targeted the fundamental question facing Ohio regarding higher education.

Last fall, the governor and chancellor announced the University System of Ohio and stated that they intended to develop a plan for it. Yesterday, during an update for the Board on his work on the plan for the University System, Fingerhut released a new version of the accountability system accountability measures. The surprise was the cover document: the “Educational Attainment Dashboard.”

The dashboard consists of four metrics. One compares educational attainment percentages for Ohioans aged 25-64 versus other states and the national average. The second compares that same group to other countries. The third set of metrics compares Ohioans age 25-34 to other states and the national average. The final set compares those younger Ohioans to the same other countries. Each of the four metrics further breaks these percentages down for associate’s, bachelor’s, and graduate or professional degrees.

Every one of these proposed dashboard measures addresses, head-on, the fundamental challenge facing this state: increasing the number and percentage of people who have a college education and have attained a degree. We can educate them. We can import them. We can convince Ohioans who have left to return home. But regardless, we need to increase the percentage of people in this state who have the skills necessary to work in the modern economy. Success can only occur when we move these percentages higher, and the most direct means of doing so is through Ohio’s independent and public colleges.

The numbers on the chancellor’s dashboard will allow policymakers and the public to decide whether this state is moving in the right direction in addressing this fundamental challenge. People can question the states and countries selected for comparison (although at first blush, they appear to be on-target to me), but doing so simply quibbles with this important decision.

More than selecting these metrics, the chancellor deserves additional credit for adding the second pair of metrics for Ohioans aged 25-34. The relative strength of our nation educationally, compared to others, is primarily driven by the fact that “older” Americans—those over 35—have degrees in larger percentages than their like-aged counterparts in other countries. Even if the percentage of younger people remained constant for the next few years around the world, the U.S. would slip in relative terms to other countries because we are not educating enough young people and other countries are (see chart A3.1). (I recommend again the short video from a Maryland community college that I cited last month.)

Ohio is doing slightly better than other states on this front recently. Nevertheless, the problem for Ohio and the country as a whole is that a higher percentage of young people in other countries are obtaining college degrees than Ohioans and Americans are. That means new industries will arise in Calgary, not Canton. Manufacturing facilities will be sited in Taejon, not Toledo. Without college degrees, the average Ohioan will continue to see his or her relative income drop.

In the short term, one obvious solution rests with educating those who are older—people who have completed some college but have no degree, and people who are changing careers or have been laid off later in life. But in the long term, the state must educate young people in larger numbers, and Fingerhut’s selection of the second set of metrics addresses that challenge.

The chancellor’s selection of these metrics demonstrates that he and the administration know what the fundamental questions are. As simple and obvious as this change may seem in hindsight, its primacy as a central indicator was not preordained. Previously, the Board of Regents identified this as one among many issues of concern. Fingerhut has changed that with the creation of this dashboard. Its elevation as an analytic tool could well signal the start of a new era in Ohio higher education policymaking. I look forward to hearing more about his plans for the whole of Ohio’s system of independent and public colleges and universities.

—C. Todd Jones

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

The NCAA Convention and Division Realignment

Americans often think that most student-athletes, as the NCAA terms them, are mostly attracted not to the university’s academic programs but to their sports. This picture follows the money but not the reality for most college athletes. Those who play sports in the NCAA’s largest division don’t see a dime in athletic scholarships. Still, there remain differences of emphasis among the 422 Division III members that may lead to a split among non-scholarship schools into a fourth division.

Inside Higher Education reported on the debate over this issue, moderated at last week’s NCAA convention by University of Dayton President Daniel J. Curran, who represented one of Ohio’s two independent Division I institutions (Xavier University is the other).

Another AICUO president, Denison University’s Dale Knobel, clearly articulates the pro-new-division view: "It doesn’t make sense to have colleges that have varying athletic philosophies, and that have different needs based on whether they are enrollment driven or endowment driven, competing against each other."

—Bob Burke

Monday, January 7, 2008

College Students as Poll Workers

Two cheers for Rep. Larry Wolpert (R–Hilliard) and HB 350, a bill to permit college students to serve as poll workers in the communities where they go to school. The bill would allow students at Ohio institutions of higher education to serve as precinct election officials in the county in which they attend school, so long as they are registered to vote in either their home or school county. The bill also would allow up to two high school seniors to serve at a poll where at least six other workers are already in place.

Poll-worker shortages have been problematic for some counties over the past few elections. This legislation would help alleviate that problem as well as encourage young citizens to become involved in the political process. The fact is that people age 18-30 do not vote at the same rate as older adults. While college graduates tend to vote in greater numbers than less educated peers, younger Ohioans still vote about half as often as their elders.

HB 350 will receive its second hearing on Thursday, January 10.

—C. Todd Jones

Friday, January 4, 2008

E. Gordon Gee on College Athletics

Ohio State President E. Gordon Gee provided some very interesting comments on college athletics on the eve of OSU's participation in the NCAA Division I national football championship game in the Chronicle of Higher Education (free for a week here, with subscription here).

—C. Todd Jones

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Rep. Regula to Receive NAICU Advocacy Award

U.S. Representative Ralph Regula will receive well-deserved recognition for his long support of independent colleges when he receives the 15th Annual Award for Advocacy of Independent Higher Education on February 5 from the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Ohio. The 16th District Republican from Navarre has served 18 terms in Congress, including six years as chairman of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. As a former House education committee staffer, I can attest to his tireless efforts in support of higher education. The award will be a fitting tribute to a public servant who will retire this year.

—C. Todd Jones