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NetJets announced a $200 million expansion in Ohio, over
other states that had competed for the prize, which came with
800 new jobs. Cincinnati-based consumer-products giant
Procter &Gamble (whose Swiffer duster was developed by
university researchers—in Japan) reached an agreement to
underwrite research at Ohio’s public universities statewide,
after the system cut through red tape that had previously held
up research contracts by as much as 18 months.
“Even if I could order everyone to do what I wanted to
do across the system, you and I know that wouldn’t happen,”
Fingerhut said of these successes. “If somebody wants to
frustrate it or slow it down, they can do that.” Gesturing toward
Capitol Square, 36 stories below his office in Columbus, he
added, “I amunder no illusion that I can drop a missive out
this window, and by the time it flutters to the street everyone
is going to follow it. It’s muchmore an approach of strategic
leadership.”
Increasing enrollment tomeet Strickland’s target has been
slower going. That is in part because, after 14 years of going up,
the number of high-school graduates has started to decline,
and won’t rise again in Ohio until 2015—two years after the
rest of the country. Enrollments are creeping higher at the
public universities, though the number of students has risen 23
percent in three years at the community colleges. To lure more,
Ohio has done such things as announcing it will charge in-
state tuition to any veteran from any state attending on the GI
Bill, and has started a programunder which 305 high school
seniors are enrolled in freshman university classes and can
matriculate to the universities as sophomores.
On the campuses, there is palpable optimism. At Bowling
Green, a new center for the arts is going up, along with a 5,000-
seat arena, and new residence halls. The library at the center
of the Ohio State campus has been elegantly renovated, there’s
a gleaming new recreation center, and the student newspaper
spent much of this academic year breathlessly counting down
the days until the huge new student union opened.
“Students have just come off three years of no increase
in tuition,” said Anthony, the Ohio State student president.
“It’s very hard to not be
grateful, compared to
40-something percent
in California. When you
look at the big picture, it’s
really hard for us to be
upset.”
Well, not that hard.
The tuition freeze ended
last summer, and students
have been hit with two
cost increases since,
capped by the General
Assembly at 3.5 percent.
Their tuition is still among
the nation’s highest. Ohio
faces another $7 billion
state budget shortfall over
the next two years. And the $724 million in federal stimulus
money that has helped protect the universities fromdeeper
cuts is running out. Bowling Green imposed unpaid furloughs
onmost faculty and staff, 149 of whom took euphemistically
named “voluntary separation benefits” to retire early or to
resign. Fingerhut cut his own pay by nearly five percent.
As the recession has deepened, some initiatives have had to
wait. A $50 million-a-year proposal to vastly increase the kinds
of student internships and co-op programs that keep graduates
from leaving has been put on hold. So have plans to boost the
number of science doctoral degrees and basic research.
Nor has the employment picture changed perceptibly—
especially as students see it. “You can’t just wave a magic wand
and suddenly there are jobs in Ohio,” said Danni McConnell, a
Bowling Green sophomore fromColumbus.
But the interest groups that sometimes divide higher
education seem to be warily embracing their new roles.
“There’s some logic” to eliminating duplication, said the
Bowling Green
political science
professor, David
Jackson, who is
president of the Faculty
Association there.
“Howmany Ph.D.
programs do you need
in one state?” As for
contributing to the
economy, he said,
“Hopefully, that’s not
all that people think
we’re good for, but I
don’t have a problem
with that being some of
what we’re here for.”
Meanwhile, of
the news from states
like California, which
are slashing the
same types of higher
education funding he’s
been trying to preserve, Strickland said, “We are disarming
ourselves in terms of being able to compete in this increasingly
competitive global economy. And I believe, as I say over
and over, that there is an unbreakable connection between
economic growth and prosperity and educational achievement.
Those states, and I hope Ohio is one of them, that have
protected education and nurtured education, will be the states
that will lead the new economy.”
If any of his fellow governors asked himwhy he has made
the choices he has, said Strickland, “I would tell them that it’s
entirely out of selfishmotivation.”
u
JonMarcus is a writer based in Boston who covers higher
education in the U.S. for the (UK)
Times Higher Education
magazine.
Ohio’s universities “want to be collaborative, and they
don’t want to be run from Columbus,” says Bruce Johnson,
president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio.
Larry Hamill, Black Star, for CrossTalk
Ohio is one of
seven states to
receive a grant
from the Lumina
Foundation to find
ways to consolidate
administrative
operations across
campuses.