Ohio State May Join Gov. Strickland’s Higher Ed Compact

A senior finance official at Ohio State University has recommended to the institution’s board of trustees that OSU join Governor Strickland’s Compact for Higher Education. Members of the compact could not raise tuition for the next academic year but they would receive increased state appropriations.

Last year Ohio State raised tuition for in-state undergraduates by 6%. If OSU joins the compact, it would be prohibited from raising tuition for the next academic year. Instead it would receive an appropriation amounting to 4.2%. That’s according to Bill Shkurti, OSU’s senior vice president for finance, who says the difference amounts to about $1 million.

“You’ve got potentially $13 million in state aid and a net loss, if we were to do the standard 6%, of $14 million, from tuition revenue we wouldn’t otherwise have,” Shkurti said. “So in that sense you can say that’s fairly close to being a wash.”

By opting out of the compact Shkurti said trustees could approve a larger tuition increase. But turning down state aid, only to ask parents and students to pay more might be a public relations nightmare. On the other hand, opting in, Shkurti said, would put Ohio State under financial stress, perhaps to the point that some full-time employees – or “FTEs” – might lose their jobs.

“I want to make it clear that if the university were to opt into the compact there would be stress financially on the institution. And a hundred FTEs may not sound like a lot,” Shkurti said. “But if you talk to students, they want more counselors, they want more professors in the classroom, they want more security officers. We wouldn’t be able to do as much under a different scenario.”

Next year’s budget figures are not cast in concrete. The legislature controls spending and may come up with a plan of its own. But Governor Strickland’s plan suggests there may be major changes ahead for the state’s public universities. Newly appointed chancellor of the board of regents Eric Fingerhut, spoke at Friday’s Ohio State Trustees meeting.

“The parameters of the compact that have been put on the table present a difficult challenge,” Fingerhut said. “This is not an easy thing to accomplish, it’s painful, it requires shared sacrifice. Obviously we believe that it is a necessary step in order to begin the process of public re-investment in higher education.”

That process will likely begin at Ohio State at the next board of trustees meeting in May.