OU President Reacts To Governor’s Funding Reforms

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Ohio University stands to benefit under a newly proposed set of higher education funding reforms announced by Governor John Kasich Friday.

OU President Roderick McDavis said in a news conference that he believes the university's share of state funding will increase over time through the new funding model, which ties 50 percent of funding to an institution's graduation rate.

"That's something we've been focused on for a number of years and now we intend to certainly continue our focus on degree completion and we believe that this new funding formula will reward Ohio University for its focus on degree completion," said McDavis.

McDavis was one of several presidents to serve on the commission tasked with developing the new funding formula.

According to McDavis, under the current model, 20 percent of funding is based on graduation rates. The reforms move away from a "head count" of students at an institution.

McDavis said the commission did grapple with the possibility that with graduation rates accounting for such a heavy percentage of funding it could lead to grade inflation at universities across the state. But that’s not something he is concerned about occurring at Ohio University.

"We think that our faculty will focus on the same qualities they've focused on in the past, which is the academic integrity of our degree and the academic quality of our programs," said McDavis.

Other recommendations in the proposal include rewarding schools which successfully train non-traditional students.  McDavis says OU's five regional campuses play an integral role in this element of the funding formula.

"Now we begin the process of sitting down with our deans and kind of figuring out do we need to make any changes in the way that we provide programs and courses for our students on our regional campuses.  We think it will always be the case that some citizens in our state will simply come back to pick up courses and maybe not enter into degree programs. I think that's OK. So, we don't anticipate that every student who gets into one of our programs will necessarily finish. What we would like to try to do is to create more opportunities for students who come to our regional campuses as well as our Athens campus to have a clear pathway toward a degree," said McDavis.

The reforms can be considered historic in more than one way: McDavis says Ohio may be the first state in the nation to take such a step toward graduation-based funding formulas, and also that in a rare move, all four-year and community college presidents in the state agreed to the funding recommendations.

"It's so hard to get three or four universities to agree on anything, much less all of the presidents," said McDavis. "It's rare when everyone votes yes and we all did."

McDavis also commented that the new recommendations will prompt greater conversation between the state’s businesses and academic institutions.  Universities that keep students in the state for employment are rewarded, and McDavis says with Ohioans accounting for 80 to 90 percent of OU students, he wants to make sure jobs are there when Bobcats graduate.

The proposed funding recommendations now go to the state legislature for review and approval before they can be implemented.

"We hope that this isn't the end of the story, if you will.  That we've created a funding formula that the governor said publicly today that's it's his desire, his hope that we do not get cut, that was excellent news coming out of this news conference. And, that he's going to try to look for ways to reward higher education for what we've done, "said McDavis.