During campus visit, Strickland acknowledges compact will be tough for universities
ATHENS, Ohio (April 10, 2007) -- Gov. Ted Strickland acknowledges that his proposed higher education compact asks state-assisted universities to make difficult decisions, but he says a very tight budget has forced him to make tough choices, too.
During a visit to the Athens campus Monday, Strickland toured the Alden Library Learning Commons and the College of Osteopathic Medicine's Mobile Health Van and met with student scholars and faculty. His remarks about the budget came during a brief press conference in Baker University Center.
"Not every school is going to like my budget," he said. "I've decided I'm willing to take the heat by making some really tough decisions. But I'm asking that the sacrifice be a shared sacrifice."
Strickland has proposed a compact with public universities that would provide an average 5 percent increase in state support for FY '08 and a 2 percent hike in FY '09. In exchange, state-assisted universities would have to agree not to raise undergraduate tuition next academic year and to hold tuition hikes to 3 percent the following year. The final state budget is subject to legislative decisions in the coming months.
"We understand it's going to be tough for the universities," he said of his proposal. But he emphasized the need for state government and public higher education to build better partnerships for the sake of Ohio's 479,000 state university students and those who wish to join them in pursuing college degrees.
Offering one example of a tough call his administration made in compiling the budget proposal, Strickland said the document allocates only need-based grants for Ohio students attending private colleges. More positive aspects of the budget, he said, include what would amount to property tax cuts for one in four Ohio property owners and more state funding for higher education.
"I don't fault the higher education community for the situation we have in Ohio today," Strickland said, noting that the state needs to make a stronger commitment to higher education. "If we're successful, this will amount to a tax cut for every family trying to send a child to college."
Eric Fingerhut, a former state senator who in March was named chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, toured campus with the governor. He, too, stressed the need for cooperation.
"(The compact is) also about building a collaborative relationship amongst all of us so that we can reinvest in the students," Fingerhut said.
Both Strickland and Fingerhut recognized President Roderick J. McDavis' leadership, which they said is acknowledged around the state. "Every institution needs a great leader," the governor said, "and Ohio University has a great leader."
Strickland and Fingerhut actively engaged the campus community throughout their tour, which also included exchanges with students and demonstrations of unique projects and programs on campus. He learned about Ohio University's Metaversity in Second Life, saw an ammonia-powered model car zip across a table and heard how the university is partnering across the region to stimulate economic growth.
"I think we all feel very encouraged by hearing what we've heard today," Strickland said. "Ohio, especially southeastern Ohio, faces great economic challenges, and this university is so well-positioned to help meet those challenges."
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Written by: Elizabeth Boyle
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