State poised to approve 4-year degrees for community colleges

The state’s two year budget is primed to make big changes in higher education.

The budget will head Friday to Gov. John Kasich’s desk for his signature.

Below are highlights of what colleges have coming their way if the budget bill is approved this week:

Bachelors degrees at community colleges

Community colleges are set to be able to offer “applied bachelor’s degrees,” according to the most recent version of the state budget bill.

If approved and signed into law, community colleges will be able to follow one of two “pathways” to begin offering bachelor’s degrees.

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The chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education will be able to approve a four-year degree at a community college if the school is able to demonstrate a workforce need or a growing long-term need, so long as that degree is not already offered at a same. The chancellor can also approve a program if it “clearly demonstrates a unique approach,” according to the bill.

Both Sinclair Community College in Dayton and Clark State Community College in Springfield have already expressed interest in offering four-year degrees.

Tuition and fee increases

Community colleges will be able to increase their general and instructional fees by no more than $10 per credit hour. Any general or instructional fee increases will have to go toward academic support or programming, career services or need-based financial aid at schools, according to the bill.

All other fees cannot be increased, with the exception of room and board fees.

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The updated bill also effectively kills a proposed $300 fee that students would have paid for textbooks. Colleges would have fronted the money for any additional books needed past the fee amount.

Colleges that participate in an undergraduate “tuition guarantee” program will have more flexibility to increase fees and tuition. A tuition guarantee program, as used by Miami University and Ohio University, guarantees that a student will pay the same amount each year for their education.

Schools that start offering a guarantee will be able to increase tuition one time by 8 percent on their first class under the program, according to the bill.

College credit

State colleges and universities will be forced to accept college credit earned at any Ohio college over the last five years.

Students with college credit earned more than five years ago will be allowed to take a competency test and if they pass they will be excused from completing a course, according to the bill.

RELATED: Sinclair increases tuition by $10 for students

The chancellor of higher education will have until June 30, 2018 to develop a model “3+1” program for bachelor’s degrees.

The programs would allow students to spend three years at community colleges and technical school before completing the last year of a four-year degree at a university. The chancellor will also be required to look at similar programs and consult officials with the Inter-University Council of Ohio and the Ohio Association of Community Colleges.

Opioid abuse prevention

The state may require something extra from people going to college to become teachers.

Future teachers will be required to take courses in opioid abuse prevention.

Other personnel at all grade levels would also be required to take courses in addiction prevention, according to the proposal.

The chancellor of Ohio Higher Education will develop rules for when and how prevention programs will be integrated into a college’s curriculum.

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