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