Ohio schools tout plan to boost enrollments.
The Ohio Association of Community Colleges says the cost of a typical bachelor's degree could be reduced by at least 25 percent for people who start their studies at two-year campuses, which have significantly cheaper tuition than four-year universities.
The plan calls for universities to maintain freshman and sophomore enrollments at approximately current levels and focus enrollment growth on juniors and seniors through aggressive recruitment of transfer students.
University undergraduate enrollment is projected to increase at a rate of 5 percent per year. Most of the increased freshman and sophomore enrollments would occur at community and technical colleges and branch campuses, which would expect enrollments to increase 11 to 12 percent per year.
The association has presented the plan to committees of the Governor's Commission on Higher Education and the Economy, which is to recommend ways to eliminate unnecessary duplication at colleges, increase the use of technology and determine how public universities best support the state's economy.
The college association has proposed a restructuring of the state funding of higher education to create incentives for the plan and require universities to maintain special scholarships for transfer students.
Dr. Roy Church, president of Lorain County Community College, said the intent is not to draw students away from the four-year schools.
"This is a bold goal for increasing participation in higher education," Church said.
The average community college in Ohio charges about $2,716 a year for tuition; Ohio's public four-year universities charge $6,301 a year, on average, according to the Ohio Board of Regents.
Many community colleges and universities have transfer agreements that allow students who take the right courses to transfer to universities as juniors after two years of successful community-college study.
Dr. Carol Cartwright, president of Kent State University, said four-year campuses also support encouraging more Ohioans to earn college degrees.
"But we differ somewhat on the means," she said. "We believe there needs to be a lot of extensive dialogue about the complexities of getting from here to there."
One part of the association's proposal the universities particularly don't like would hold freshman and sophomore enrollment at current levels at the four-year campuses.
Cartwright said price isn't always the determining factor for prospective students, so the market needs two- and four-year options.
But Church said it's a way to sort out the state's system of higher education based on what each sector does best.
"That's not an indictment of the universities," Church said. "It's a different mission. Why wouldn't you play to the strength of the institutions?"
Both Cartwright and Church said Ohio must continue working to make it easier for students to transfer academic credits from one institution to another.
A key component of the association's plan is a marketing campaign touting the importance of higher education and its link to higher earnings.
Church said some members of the governor's commission questioned whether increased enrollments guarantee an economic boost for the state.
"You create an environment where creativity is encouraged, and good things happen," he said. "By educating Ohioans, you stand a better chance of stirring economic development."