Public universities targeting degree attainment


Greene County News

FAIRBORN — Recognizing the urgent need to quickly and substantially increase the number of Ohioans with postsecondary education credentials, Wright State University and Ohio’s other public four-year universities have launched a wide range of initiatives designed to enhance the quality of the academic programs while increasing efficiency, affordability and degree attainment.

“We must increase student success because Ohio faces a severe talent gap that threatens the state’s economic competitiveness and growth,” said Wright State University president David R. Hopkins. “We have a significant shortage of working-age adults with the college-level credentials required to fill the majority of current and future jobs. To thrive and prosper, Ohio must dramatically increase education attainment levels, and that creates an imperative to enhance higher education quality, efficiency and affordability.”

Last spring, the state established an Ohio Attainment Goal: By 2025, 65 percent of working-age adults in Ohio will have a degree, certificate or other credential of value in the marketplace. Achieving that goal will require Ohio to produce 1.7 million additional adults with postsecondary credentials. At the current rate, only 43 percent of working-age Ohioans will attain the needed degree, certificate or credential by 2025.

The state’s public universities are making progress. For example, the number of degrees awarded by Ohio’s public four-year universities increased by 20.1 percent between 2010 and 2015. Degree attainment is increasing despite the continued negative economic environment that has inhibited state and university budgets. While state funding has increased 7.1 percent since 2014, Ohio’s funding per student is 27 percent below the national average.

Ohio’s public universities are national leaders in containing college costs with five-year tuition growth well below the national average. Among the many steps universities are taking to enhance retention and completion include the following:

College Completion Plans. Each university in Ohio has developed a completion plan that outlines specific completion goals and strategies for increasing the number of students earning postsecondary education credentials, particularly those needed for high-demand, living–wage occupations. Wright State’s strategy includes summer programs to prepare students for the transition to college, proactive advising to ensure that students remain on the right track for degree completion and career advising beginning with new student orientation and continuing throughout the student’s time at the university.

Senate 5 Percent Cost Reduction Challenge. Each university has developed a plan to provide all in-state undergraduate students the opportunity to reduce the cost of earning a degree by 5 percent. Wright State’s plan includes a 20 percent rebate on summer credit hours for students completing full class loads in the prior fall or spring semester. The plan also seeks to reduce the cost of textbooks by encouraging faculty members to use less-expensive required materials when possible.

Efficiency Reviews. Each university has conducted an efficiency review and implementation plan based on the report and recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force on Higher Education Affordability and Efficiency. To that end, Wright State is placing greater emphasis on utilizing existing collaborative contracts, which carry better pricing and is also looking for opportunities to monetize non-core assets.

“These initiatives and many others are enhancing our ability to support student success, increase degree completion, reduce student debt and more effectively connect degree holders to successful careers,” said Hopkins. “We know that a college degree provides a substantial lifetime financial edge, with a typical graduate of a four-year college earning nearly $1 million more than a high school graduate, on average.”

Concurrently, Ohio’s public universities are working to close a critical “innovation gap” by ramping up research and development, technology transfer and commercialization activities to fill the funding shortfall caused by reduced federal and private investment in basic research, applied research, new product development and business creation. Through a number of programs, including the Ohio Centers of Excellence program, public universities across the state are working collaboratively, and with government and industry, to insure Ohio remains a center for private industry and government investment.

“At a time when Ohio’s public universities play such an important role in preparing students to achieve their full potential, driving economic growth and supporting a strong democracy, support for our universities has been significantly impacted by the effects of the Great Recession,” said Bruce Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, a voluntary educational association of Ohio’s public universities. “Continued progress on raising education attainment levels and creating economic opportunity will require a continued partnership with state officials to enhance investment in and support for higher education. The pay-off will be a brighter, more prosperous future for Ohio.”

Story courtesy of Wright State University.

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