Universities won’t see easing of state rules

- October 18, 2012

Prompted by our release of a study that showed that deregulation of higher-ed systems in other states hasn’t made tuition more affordable, increased access for low-income students, or increased graduation rates,” the Columbus Dispatch contacted Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro, who said he wants to bring back his 2011 proposal to loosen regulations for the state’s public universities.

“Sometimes these plans get stuck on a shelf somewhere, and a group in the future resurrects them,” Petro told the Dispatch. But Petro acknowledged that the plan isn’t going anywhere for now. The chancellor said his plan would free up scholarship money for “Ohio’s brightest students by using state money that public universities would give up in exchange for less state oversight.”

Petro acknowledged that the plan — which was left out of Gov. John Kasich’s budget review this year — isn’t going anywhere. But he also disagreed yesterday with a left-leaning policy group’s report that asserts that deregulating higher education could lead to higher tuition and less access for low-income students.

We recommended that rather than deregulate, the state should increase higher-education funding, commit to more need-based financial aid and set strong performance targets for schools, including increased graduation and retention rates. We looked at states that had deregulated higher education to varying degrees, comparing costs and other measures with national numbers.

After years of steady declines in state support in Ohio, many college leaders have been advocating for more freedom from red tape that they say wastes time and money. Petro was charged with coming up with a possible solution.

However, legislators and college leaders couldn’t agree on whether the schools should give up some state money in return for more freedom, and how best to hold the campuses accountable.

Bruce E. Johnson, president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, said his group couldn’t support a plan that would result in less state money for higher education. The council represents the state’s public four-year universities.

“One of the reasons the public supports public higher education is to keep tuition relatively low, and we can’t do that without adequate support from the state,” Johnson said.

We say don’t revive Petro’s plan. The best way to create a strong system that works for everyone is to provide adequate funding and target resources to need-based aid.

Universities won’t see easing of state rules

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