New Report Sheds Light on Post-Secondary Challenges Facing Ohioans

A new report from the Innovation Ohio Education Fund titled, “The Heart of it All: How Ohio’s Lagging Investment in Post-Secondary Education Must Be Reversed For Its People to Prosper in Today’s Economy” has examined rarely analyzed state education data to reveal a stark picture of Ohio’s urgent need to invest in its post-secondary education and workforce development systems.

Ohio is at the vanguard of a number of national problems concerning higher education access and attainment. Fewer and fewer Ohioans are upwardly mobile, earning more than their parents. As more jobs require a post-secondary credential, Ohioans continue to lag behind the rest of the country in obtaining them. The number of Ohioans enrolled in post-secondary programs is shrinking primarily due to the increased financial burdens students and families must shoulder because of continued state divestment from the necessary post-secondary programs required for the 21st century knowledge economy. This is especially true for students from poorer communities and students of color.

Key findings from the report include:

  • Ohio had the ninth lowest per student financial commitment to higher education in the United States – nearly $2,100 less than the national average.
  • Ohio’s higher education enrollment drop of over 17% between 2011 and 2017 was the largest drop in the country. While Ohio’s 2015 enrollment was higher than before the 2008-2009 Great Recession, the difference was only 0.8%, which was the nation’s sixth lowest increase.
  • Overall, 44% of Ohio adults aged 25-64 have at least an associate’s degree or a high-quality workforce credential, compared to 47% of the country. Less than 7% of the Class of 2018 received industry recognized credentials, which can be an effective and far less costly alternative for non-college bound students.
  • Over three decades, the state’s investment in higher education has dropped by 25%, which, coupled with cuts to need-based aid, has made Ohio 45th in college affordability. This financial divestment appears to disproportionately impact college access for poor students in both urban and rural districts.
  • Socioeconomic status impacts not just enrollment, but also completion. Students from poor school districts are twice as likely to fail to complete their programs. A similar gap exists between suburban and rural districts.

The solution to our state’s talent challenge requires investing in Ohioans so they may more readily obtain college degrees or other post-secondary certificates. This will require additional resources for Ohio’s higher education and workforce development systems, as well as stepped up need-based aid from a state that has spent the last 20 years doing the opposite. Ohio must also work to narrow the gap between wealthy students, white students, and suburban students, and poor students, students of color, and urban and rural students.

Over the coming months, Innovation Ohio Education Fund will be developing specific policy initiatives that can help policymakers develop a better trained, more educated workforce to ensure a prosperous future for all Ohioans.