12:00 AM

More college grads essential to Ohio economy

COLUMBUS – The state of Ohio is in dire need of more college-educated citizens if it is to stay afloat in today's competitive global economy, according to Tally Hart, senior advisor in a newly established office at The Ohio State University.

The Office of Economic Access will seek out and implement ways to encourage low-income students to not only consider the possibility of higher education, but also become aware of ways to achieve that goal.

“According to the Lumina Foundation for Education, Ohio needs more than 450,000 new college graduates in the next few decades to participate in a better economic future for our state and our nation as it rises to the economic level of top nations. These future graduates need to be cultivated right now from high-achieving children in low-income families who traditionally haven't considered college, largely due to the cost,” Hart told the university's Board of Trustees on Friday (12/8).

“Educating all Ohioans is crucial to the sound economic future for our state, our nation and especially for our children. It's the right thing to do, but it's also the smart thing to do,” said Hart, adding that “We need to get them while they're young to let them know that college can be affordable.”

Established just this fall, the new office is already well into plans designed to guarantee access for high-achieving, low-income students and ensure success once they enroll. New initiatives in the Office of Economic Access include working with Ohio State University Extension to get the word out about accessibility to rural and urban areas throughout the state. Other efforts will showcase faculty and staff who were the first in their families to go to college, and will connect current students with younger children to talk about the college experience.

One new project is a partnership with Ohio State's Office of Information Technology's Connecting Rural Ohio program. “OIT is providing broadband service to New Straightsville and Chester Hill and is working on a project with the village of Vinton. We will be able to use the pipeline they create to deliver information about going to college. We believe it's a unique partnership that highlights the university's commitment to all Ohioans as part of our land grant mission,” Hart said.

Strategies also include new ways of packaging financial aid, a website – www.osu.edu/access/ -- that offers pointers on preparing for college, and radio PSAs that encourage low-income students to believe that college is within their reach.

“Our goal is to have any academically talented Ohioan who aspires to higher education to be able to attend and graduate from Ohio State whether he or she begins at a community college, a regional campus or another undergraduate institution in the state. We will find a way to help them succeed” said Hart.

Barbara Snyder, Ohio State's executive vice president and provost, emphasized to trustees the impact of Ohio's -- and America's -- lack of college-educated citizens, pointing to recent research by the World Economic Forum indicating that the U.S. is losing ground in readying new leaders for the global economy.

“According to the forum's survey of education in 125 countries, our system ranked a dismal 15th, just one notch ahead of Barbados and well behind the top three – Finland, Singapore and Iceland,” said Snyder.

“It is essential that we rewrite today's higher education scenario in which students with the highest ability and lowest income are less likely to go to college than students with the lowest ability and highest income,” she said.

Snyder told trustees that Ohio State was cited in a recent report by the Education Trust, an arm of the American Association for Higher Education, for its work in closing the access gap for low-income and minority students. The report recognized Ohio State's aggressive recruitment of low-income students, noting that 26 percent of the student body qualifies for Pell Grants, considered the backbone of federal financial aid for the neediest students.

“We hope to halt today's intellectual waste and turn it into tomorrow's intellectual capital by opening the university's doors ever wider to the academically talented, irrespective of their financial need,” Snyder concluded.