OU Could Take Biggest Hit Under Proposed SSI Changes

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Ohio University could feel the biggest impact among Ohio’s public universities from some proposed “tweaks” to Ohio’s State Share of Instruction. It could mean up to a $9 million cut in state funding to OU.

According to OU officials, two changes have been proposed for the state’s higher education funding formula. The proposals would eliminate subsidy of at-risk degrees for students admitted with more than 30 credit hours, and students with an associate degree would only be partially funded when pursuing a bachelor’s degree.

Stephen Golding, associate vice president for finance and personnel at OU, said the changes, if approved, would primarily impact OU’s online program for registered nurses seeking bachelor’s degrees in nursing.The program has many students who already have associate degrees.

However, OU Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit said it’s hard to predict the impact the proposed changes could have because they are modeled on last year’s enrollment figures. She said that enrollment for all public universities has changed since Fiscal Year 2014, on which the projections were based.

But projections presented to the OU Board of Trustees on Thursday indicated a possible 6.2 percent decrease in SSI funding for OU — the biggest cut of any Ohio public university. It’s projected that Cleveland State University would have the second-largest cut with 5.6 percent, followed by Shawnee State University with 1.9 percent and the University of Cincinnati and Kent State University with cuts of 1.2 percent.

OU President Roderick McDavis said that Gov. John Kasich asked the state’s 14 public university presidents to design a new funding formula, including a portion to be performance based.

“After the first year of implementation, we now have some experience with the impact of the funding formula,” McDavis said on Friday, indicating that a small group of public university representatives have requested the proposed changes. He said the 14 presidents will reconvene to vote on the proposal.

“We’re still having that conversation as a group of presidents. We’ll continue having that conversation probably into November, at which point we will probably make a decision relative to whether or not we want to accept the changes that have been recommended or whether we want to keep the funding formula where it is today,” McDavis said.

McDavis said that the university is performing well in recruitment, retention and graduation rates, on which 50 percent of the current funding formula is based. He said that OU’s Board of Trustees is concerned about the proposed changes.

“If we’re playing by the rules and we’re doing all the right things, why is it that we’re going to take the largest cut?” McDavis said.

But even though Ohio University could take the biggest loss if the changes are accepted, McDavis said he’s not sure which way he will vote.

“I certainly believe that we have a great case as Ohio University, but also understand that there’s a larger issue. And the larger issue is that there are many universities in Ohio that are beginning to improve their graduation rates, that are beginning to improve their recruitment and retention and those are universities that took a significant hit in their budgets over the last year.

“The point is that the pie didn’t change, but clearly we got a larger share of the pie, which meant that other universities got a smaller share of the pie than they were receiving. I’m very concerned about the future of higher education in general, but being the president of Ohio University, I do have a bias in this conversation so I’ll have to listen to the rest of the conversation before I determine how to vote,” McDavis said.

If approved, the funding formula changes would take effect in Fiscal Year 2016.