Home Education State legislators visit campus to talk higher education funding

State legislators visit campus to talk higher education funding

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State legislators discussed their role in higher education while visiting last Friday, a year after the announcement of Gov. John Kasich’s new graduation-based funding model.

State Sen. Lou Gentile and State Rep. Debbie Phillips spoke to about 20 students in Baker Center about state issues, including funding for higher education.

Regarding Kasich’s new funding model, Phillips said it could have negative effects.

“Focusing on completion is something that should help direct resources toward students…there are some potential benefits there,” she said during a meet-and-greet earlier in the day. “But I have heard some concerns… about whether the focus on completion being tied to the state funding for colleges and universities could start contributing toward pressure on professors to kind of move people through, and a concern about whether that may affect rigor and the quality of education that’s available to students.”

“I think there are some very good intentions, but we’re really going to have to watch carefully to see whether there might be any unintended consequences and be able to adjust.”

Announced in November 2012, the new funding model increases the percentage of state funding given based on graduation rates from 20 percent to 50 percent. The model was a result of a collaboration of nine presidents of public universities and colleges, including OU President Roderick McDavis. Collectively, the group was named the Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission.

The model was the first of its kind, according to the report from the commission, which said “no state in the country is taking such an innovative approach to an issue with broad, national scope.”

The report also stated that “Ohio’s continuing investment in higher education highlights the sector’s strong ties to positive economic development. Research shows that individuals with higher levels of education earn more and are more likely than others to be employed,” citing a 2010 report from College Board, a not-for-profit organization focused on higher education.

Jordan Ballinger, the Governmental Affairs Commissioner for Student Senate, also emphasized the state’s need to invest in higher education, but said the current amount of funding is not enough.

“When more people are coming out of poverty that means less money will be spent on social welfare programs. So, the more funding we put into education, the less money we’ll have to put into social welfare, and the less poverty we’ll have in total because more people are getting an education and going to get jobs,” he said. “But the first step is putting money into the education system, which is just not happening. Right now, we’re taking money out and making students pay more, and so they’re leaving college broke.”

Gentile told students that he could sympathize with this financial burden.

“I certainly understand and sympathize with a lot of young people wondering what they’re future is going to be, and we’re saddling them with a lot of debt and I don’t think providing the opportunities we need to be providing them with,” he said.

“We spent so much emphasis in this budget on cutting taxes on people in Ohio that are doing pretty well instead of investing in education, investing in a robust diverse economy, that in many ways I think that, as a state, we’re starting to go backward a little bit… More at the state level could be done to ensure opportunities when you come out of college and look for employment.”

A graduate of Ohio University, Phillips is serving as the Representative for Athens and the surrounding area for her third term. Gentile is serving his first term.

Spencer Cappelli and Kaleb Carter contributed to this article. 

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