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Legislative Commitee Addresses Course Loads, Financial Aid, Workforce Needs And Other Issues

Monday, February 10, 2014 at 11:14 AM

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An Ohio House special committee has come up with a series of recommendations to change Ohio's approach to higher education. That includes financial aid, class loads, apprenticeships, technical education and the state budget. For Ohio Public Radio, WKSU's M.L. Schultze talked with one of the heads of the study committee about some of its findings.

Christina Hagan was still in college in Stark County when she was appointed to an unexpired term in the House of Representatives in 2011.

She had taken full-time class loads, needed no remedial classes and had a head start through a program known as postsecondary, where high school seniors earn college credits.

But she acknowledges it’s tougher for others. She says how tough became clear during the half-dozen hearings her Ohio House Higher Education Study Committee held in the fall.

Now the committee has come up series of recommendations that include access to financial aid, helping nontraditional students and better coordinating primary and secondary with higher education - and higher education with business.

“We identified things we can work on almost immediately in the House and the Senate: as far as policy points, establishing 15 hours as the default standard for full-time enrollment to ensure that students are achieving more with the time that they have and hopefully incurring less cost in the process.

“Obviously the broader points will take more time to discuss.”

Hagan says that includes establishing advisory boards to examine bigger issues such barriers for nontraditional learners, what we can do to be of assistance to them to get them in the classroom to make sure they are able to complete their degrees in a timely sense that is beneficial to them and to the taxpayers.”

Rep. Hagan acknowledges that students in Ohio are graduating with a lot of debt.

“We’re, I think, ninth in the country in the amount of average student debt. … We have a lot of great schools, however, we’re not really doing our best by students to help them efficiently get through the education process.”

And, she says “a lot of folks drop out; we have an extreme amount of remediation,” so the state needs to figure out “how can we meet them half way.”

She’d like to see more high school students participating in post-secondary programs, where they get both high school and college credit for classes they take in their senior year of high school. That’s what she did by attending Stark State College pretty much full time her senior year.

“Every student is different but we need to more aggressively market those opportunities to students.

At the other end, she says the state needs to look at what it can do to help older, nontraditional students.

Many begin part-time studies, then “life circumstances” such as divorce or sickness “come into play. … Maybe we don’t provide the support necessary to get an adult student through what they started: and when they do, maybe the area they were studying is no longer an essential area

Rep. Hagan says the next step for her and co-chairman Rep.Cliff Rosenberger is to implement some of the smaller steps, such as a mentorship program that integrates businesses onto campuses and establishing a state-backed apprenticeship program.

The higher education report is here, under the “February 04, 2014” dropdown menu. 

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Education, Government/Politics

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