A plan is in the works to deregulate all 14 Ohio public universities and to, in essence, privatize the public education system as a part of the Enterprise University plan.
Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro said public universities, Ohio State included, spend too much time and money on oversight. He said these out-of-date and unnecessary mandates cost the schools money.
“If universities can operate more nimbly, more flexibly with more freedom of action, then I think they will save money,” Petro said at a Board of Regents conference. “They will have more opportunity to enact policies and procedures that will allow them to partner with businesses whether it be through research or commercialization.”
Opponents of the Enterprise University plan say several aspects of the proposal are flawed.
Nick Messenger, USG president, acknowledged that the plan could save universities money, but this could come at a cost to certain students.
“The Enterprise University proposal is the Board of Regents’ push to allow universities a little freedom from state regulations in order to be more efficient and save money,” Messenger said. “Some things that should be concerning would be allowing universities to differentiate tuition based on program.”
He said the program-specific tuition could compromise the quality of the education in some areas.
“They could charge you more to be an engineering major and less to be a social science major,” Messenger said. “The danger there is the university makes more revenue off certain programs. There’s not a lot of incentive to invest in new resources, facilities and faculty for the programs that make less.”
Messenger said that in changing to a program-based tuition system, the quality of degrees could be compromised.
“I’m worried that at first the low tuition looks good, but then in the long run the quality of the program goes down. And when the quality of the program goes down, eventually the quality of the degree has to come down,” Messenger said.
Messenger said this plan would also cut off state funding for the university, possibly demanding an increase in tuition.
Currently, OSU receives about 10 percent of its budget from the state, and through this plan, the university can become more efficient, save money and cut its dependencies to the state funding.
In his quarterly visit with The Lantern in April, President E. Gordon Gee said that he believes his university has been over regulated on the federal and state levels.
Petro said this plan would not make universities less transparent, but it would allow for more leeway with closed-door executive sessions.
Messenger, however, felt transparency would be compromised.
“It really does reduce transparency, it allows the Board of Trustees to meet with the auditors privately … and in their executive sessions. Whereas now all of that has to happen publicly,” Messenger said.
Another part of the proposal would eliminate state-regulated enrollment caps.
In order for a school to become an Enterprise University and avoid the state mandates, they would be required to have a 75 percent five-year graduation rate. They would also be required to have an 85 percent two-year retention rate.
Part of this plan would allow schools to explore options and possibilities to create three-year, four-year and five-year programs, depending on the needs of the specific program.
In April, Gee said he was not opposed to certain programs becoming a three-year degrees, and others becoming five-year programs.
Upon approval from the General Assembly, the plan could take effect next July.