A year ago, Ohio’s 14 public universities launched a statewide communication campaign called “Forward Ohio.” The purpose of the campaign was to raise public awareness of the value of higher education, especially the many ways our public universities are helping to move Ohio forward.
Consider Ohio’s workforce. Our public universities produce the majority of the skilled workers we need to meet employers’ evolving workforce needs. Based on data from OhioMeansJobs.com, 82 of the top 100 highest-paying, in-demand jobs in Ohio require a baccalaureate degree or above.
College-level learning maximizes individual opportunity, competitive advantage and economic prosperity — for individuals, businesses and the state.
Our ability to attract and retain jobs is key to Ohio’s economic future, which hinges in large part on the educational attainment levels of our citizens. That’s one reason maintaining a high-quality public higher education system is so important.
The value of public higher education in Ohio remains strong and impactful, as evidenced by five life-shaping, life-improving benefits:
• We help Ohioans prosper. In today’s economy, a university degree will help you secure your first career opportunity, advance in your current career, or transition to a new one. By dramatically improving your ability to earn a good living, an investment in higher education is still the best path to achieving the American Dream.
• We develop Ohio’s workforce. University degrees are great assets not only for individuals, but also for the communities where they live. States and communities with more highly educated and credentialed workforces tend to be healthier, wealthier and better able to compete in today’s global economy and attract business investment and jobs.
• We spur Ohio’s economy. University research and development, technology transfer and commercialization activities, along with a culture of entrepreneurship on university campuses, help drive Ohio’s innovation economy. Universities have ramped up these efforts to ensure Ohio remains a center for private and federal investment.
• We tackle society’s toughest issues. Basic university research improves our lives and the world. It provides tremendous experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, training the next generation of researchers who will make future contributions that will improve public health, the economy and our communities, nation and world.
• We work to keep college affordable. Our universities are committed to keeping college within financial reach. Ohio is a national leader in containing college costs, recording the slowest rate of growth in tuition and fees over the past 10 years. At plus 5%, Ohio has the lowest rate of increase among all 50 states.
Higher education pays substantial dividends. For example:
• In 2016-17, Ohio’s public universities, their students and their statewide alumni added $42 billion in income to Ohio’s economy. The $42 billion of economic impact supported 558,841 jobs, which represents one of every 12 jobs in Ohio.
• Students at Ohio’s public universities realize a 13.7% annual return on investment. That’s $4.60 in future earnings for every $1 students spend on tuition, supplies and opportunity costs.
• Ohio taxpayers realize an 8.6% annual return on their investment in public universities. The benefit comes in the form of future tax revenue and government savings resulting from reducing costs incurred by the state to pay for health care, criminal justice programs and unemployment insurance.
State leaders are taking notice — and action.
Ohio’s public universities applaud Gov. Mike DeWine and the Ohio House of Representatives for proposing and advocating for a 1% increase in state operating dollars for public universities plus a 21% increase in need-based financial aid for Ohio’s most financially at-risk students through the Ohio College Opportunity Grant Program in each year of the next biennium.
Ohio also is making a significant investment in scholarships for students earning a STEMM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Medicine) degree or certificate. Our universities appreciate this assistance for our students.
But we also believe Ohio can do more. An additional 1% investment by the state in operating subsidy for our public universities would keep Ohio on pace with the current rate of inflation. And investment by the state in mental health and substance abuse services for students on campus will help address that growing crisis.
Public universities’ value proposition remains strong, and higher education continues to play a vital role in moving Ohio forward.
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Bruce Johnson serves as the president and CEO of the Inter-University Council of Ohio.