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Petro wants students to complete higher education
As chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, Jim Petro has a one-word goal – completion. He would like to see students attending Ohio’s 37 universities and community colleges complete their credentials and degrees, whether they are a one-year certificate, two-year degree or four-year degree.
“Less than half of those who enter ultimately complete their degree. Five semesters of college doesn’t mean anything. You have wasted your money and our money,” Petro said on a recent Town Hall Ohio show.
The Ohio Board of Regents coordinates higher education in Ohio and works with a $2.4 billion budget. The chancellor directs the agency and with the advice of the nine-member board provides policy guidance for the governor and the Ohio General Assembly.
As head of the state’s higher-education system, Petro is focused on graduating more students to “meet the job requirements of tomorrow.”
“We are stagnant in college attainment. We are really getting behind the curve and we need to change that nationally and in Ohio,” he said.
Over the past few years, the state has been allocating less budget money to higher education institutions, forcing them to raise tuition fees to fill that gap. While the costs continue to rise every year, Petro pointed out that there are affordable options. For example, last year Ohio State University and Columbus State Community College entered an agreement in which Columbus State students who complete a two-year degree are guaranteed access to a bachelor’s degree at Ohio State.
“There are very low cost pathways in Ohio, and community colleges are an incredible resource,” he said.
Having less state money also has resulted in the state, universities and colleges working together to find ways to share costs, Petro said. The state is currently working on upgrading its accelerated bandwidth from 10 Gigabits per second (Gbps) to 100 Gbps for the state’s education and medical institutions as well as state government so they can more efficiently work together. For example, 100 Gbps will allow data equivalent to 80 million file cabinets filled with text to be transferred daily.
“When businesses look at Ohio’s technological resources, we’re going to have something like nobody else does,” he said.
Ohio is working at making more community college credits transferable to universities and creating blocked scheduling for students who work. For example, over the course of 1 ½ years, students would have classes scheduled from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. for five days a week, allowing them to keep their job. Petro said a similar program in Tennessee had a 70 percent completion rate.
The state is focused on training students for jobs of the future, Petro said. He said students today are being trained for jobs in the fast growing shale and gas exploration industry in Ohio.
“The jobs of tomorrow will require more than a secondary school diploma. Manufacturing today is driven by the need to understand the technology of that industry,” Petro said, elaborating that manufacturing supervisors now need bachelor’s degrees. “They need to do things they never dreamed of 30 years ago.”Photo by Chip Nelson