News Release: Petro Unveils Plan for ‘State U, Inc’

For Immediate Release: August 11, 2011
Contact: Dale Butland, 614-783-5833

Petro Unveils Plan For ‘State U, Inc.’
IO Asks:  What’s In It For Students And Parents?

Columbus: Innovation Ohio, a progressive think tank headquartered in Columbus, today called on the Kasich Administration to answer a series of questions raised by the unveiling of a new plan for Ohio’s public universities by Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro.

Petro’s proposal brings to fruition an idea long championed by Governor Kasich to allow Ohio’s public colleges to become “enterprise” or “charter” universities.  According to the Columbus Dispatch, schools electing this option would give up 10-20% of their per-student state funding in exchange for less regulation and state oversight of their operations.

Said IO Communications Director Dale Butland:

“Since Gov. Kasich seems intent on privatizing most everything else in Ohio, it’s no surprise that he wants to turn Ohio State and our other great universities into quasi-corporations.  But before legislators rubber-stamp the Governor’s proposal, perhaps they should ask the Administration to answer a few questions about how the plan will impact school customers; namely, students and their parents.

  • First, what effect will there be on tuition?  An earlier draft said ‘enterprise universities’ would be allowed to raise tuition above the state cap, but the plan unveiled today is silent on the subject.  I’m sure Ohio college students and parents, who are already struggling to pay rising tuition bills, would like to know how much, if any,  input the public will have in how high and how fast college costs are allowed to rise.
  • Second, the proposal seems to give university Boards of Trustees the freedom to use ‘executive sessions’ more frequently, and thus shield what they’re doing from scrutiny by the news media.  It also appears to cut back on the need to get rules and spending approved by the state Controlling Board.   To paraphrase a famous song, is freedom just another word for concealing information and evading accountability?
  • Third, how will the semi-privatization of our state universities affect our long-standing commitments to fair minority hiring practices, ‘buy Ohio’ policies, and making our colleges accessible to all Ohioans?  If ‘enterprise universities’ are to have more ‘autonomy’ in these areas, how, exactly, will these commitments be enforced?
  • Fourth, Chancellor Petro’s proposal says that in return for fewer state dollars, ‘enterprise universities’ will get relief from unnecessary or counterproductive regulations.  But if   burdensome or truly unnecessary regulations exist, and they doubtlessly do, why can’t the Administration and legislature simply modify or abolish them?  Why must getting rid of bad regulations be tied to cuts in student funding?
  • Finally, we know that similar privatization schemes have been tried in other states.  What evidence does the Administration have that ‘charter universities’ work or have been successful elsewhere?  What assurance can they give that Ohio charter universities will be held to higher accountability standards than Ohio K-12 charter schools have been?

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