Policy group wants Ohio higher ed spending reprioritized



(The Center Square) – An Ohio policy group believes the state needs to “right-size” college campuses in an era of declining enrollment and changing educational needs and technology advances.

Greg Lawson, a research fellow at The Buckeye Institute, believes taxpayers should not pay funding requests from universities that include administrative, community, entertainment or sports facilities.

In a policy memo, Lawson explained lawmakers should continue to reevaluate higher education priorities.

“Taxpayer funding for higher education infrastructure should be limited to meeting the education needs of the 21st century and its technologically sophisticated economy,” Lawson wrote. “Legislators should review requests to ensure that capital budget dollars subsidize construction and maintenance of facilities such as research laboratories, computer science and health-training centers, and other learning environments essential for developing skillsets needed in the new economy.”

Those ideas, according to Lawson, are just one step toward larger higher education reform, which should include relating incentives and funding plans more to the state’s taxpayers.

Lawson believes the higher ed budget – which includes more than $2 billion annually through state spending, nearly $500 million in capital spending, and $200 million for student grants – should be tied to graduates’ employment and incomes capable of repaying student debt.

“Ohio’s capital budget requests for public colleges and universities should be granted for educational buildings and infrastructure on campuses, not for entertainment and athletic events,” Lawson said. “Educating students for the 21st century workforce should be the priority, and capital requests for projects outside that focused priority should be denied and the taxpayer assets reallocated.”

Ohio has 14 four-year public universities with 24 branch campuses. The state is also home to 23 two-year community and technical colleges, and more than 50 four-year private colleges and universities.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, undergraduate enrollment in Ohio’s four-year schools increased 0.3% in 2023, which ended a steady decline from 2018.

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