Higher education key to Ohio’s ‘talent gap’

Greg Crawford is president of Miami University.

Possibly the most important investment a person can make is in earning a college degree. A typical college graduate earns nearly $1 million more than a high school graduate over a lifetime. Also, college graduates are more likely to be employed, to be active in their communities and to volunteer.

Many people know these advantages, but have found it difficult to attain a college degree or other postsecondary education. Ohio’s public universities can help.

The Ohio Attainment Goal for 2025 says that 65 percent of working-age adults in Ohio will have a postsecondary degree, certificate or other credential of value in the marketplace.

It will require 1.7 million additional Ohio adults to earn postsecondary credentials. Currently, only 43 percent of working-age Ohioans will attain the needed degree, certificate or credential.

The state’s public universities are adopting measures to increase degree completion while reducing student debt and better connecting degree-holders to successful careers. Key initiatives include the 5 Percent Cost Reduction Challenge and individual College Completion Plans. At Miami University, for instance, there is no extra cost for having more than 12 credit hours per semester, so students can work toward earlier graduation by taking 15 or 18 credits/semester (or more, if they wish).

With a four-year graduation rate ranked 20th best in the nation, and a retention rate of 92 percent, Miami is helping students succeed and save money by graduating in much less time than the national average of six years. We also spend wisely: Miami ranks 1st among national universities by U.S. News & World Report for efficiently spending “limited resources in order to produce the highest possible educational quality.”

To help students throughout Ohio, we have increased partnerships and articulation agreements with two- and four-year institutions, including with Cincinnati State, Sinclair and Columbus State community colleges, providing supported paths to bachelor’s degrees. Our regional campuses have also added many new market-driven bachelor’s degrees that offer schedule flexibility. In Miami Regionals’ engineering tech program, students can complete their engineering associate degree from the community college and the last two years from Miami – in a combination of online and classroom courses taught at the community college.

Together, Ohio public universities are making strides. The number of associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees awarded by Ohio publics and community colleges increased by 20.1 percent from 2010 to 2015. Degree attainment is increasing even as state funding in Ohio lags other states.

To build our future, though, we need to partner with Ohio to address an innovation gap.

Ohio’s public universities are boosting research and development, technology transfer and commercialization activities. Yet, there has been reduced federal and private investment in basic and applied research, new product development and the business creation necessary to attract and retain new talent. Many graduates from our universities are going to other states. The Great Recession significantly impacted support for our universities, but with the state’s help, we can reverse ominous demographic trends and continue to innovate and play an important role in creating economic opportunity.

Continued progress on raising educational attainment levels and driving economic development requires enhanced investment in and support for higher education to ensure Ohio remains a magnet for private and federal investment. The pay-off will be more outstanding graduates choosing to remain in our state, a brighter, more prosperous future for Ohio, and economic prosperity.

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