16:30 PM

New Ohio legislation supports university’s goal of educating state workforce

Bill would aim to keep graduates in state with income tax break, paid internships

Ohio State University President Kristina M. Johnson announced her support today for a new effort to offer incentives to keep students learning and working in Ohio.

State Rep. Jon Cross (R- Kenton) announced new legislation to attract and keep students and workers in Ohio with a proposal that includes state income tax credits, targeted scholarships and expanded student aid. Cross was joined by Johnson and other higher education and business leaders to announce the Graduate and Retain Ohio’s Workforce (GROW) Act at a press conference at the Statehouse Monday morning.

“We talk a lot about workforce right here in this building at the Statehouse. But how can we actually put creative ideas and really good solutions on paper that actually will help with recruitment and retention?” Cross asked.

Cross said the No. 1 issue he hears about in his community is the need to grow the number of people choosing to live, work and raise a family in the state.

“This is an important and catalytic legislation,” Johnson said. “We are deeply grateful to have such a champion of not only higher education but also the future of this state. One of the things that I’ve learned … is the future of this country depends on innovation exactly in states like Ohio and in the Midwest.”

The GROW Act includes several provisions to help keep students in the state. Students who earn a degree from an Ohio higher education institution and continue to work in the state will pay no Ohio income tax for three years after graduation.

Johnson said increasing the number of Ohioans with a college degree would ultimately boost state revenue and reduce the need for social services.

Paid internships and co-ops would see support in the form of a refundable tax credit for 30% of an intern’s wages. Johnson’s recently announced Scarlet & Gray Advantage program calls for more paid work opportunities as one of the pillars of offering a debt-free bachelor’s degree at Ohio State within a decade.

“[The GROW Act is] going to advance the longstanding collaboration between our higher education institutions and the co-ops, internships and the opportunities for our students to get a leg up and a first step toward a thriving and productive career,” Johnson said.

The plan also offers more traditional funding for colleges and universities, including a merit-based scholarship program for high-performing out-of-state students who are studying science, technology, engineering and mathematics. State funding would expand Ohio College Opportunity Grants to students who return to a state college or university after completing their associate degree in the state.

Leaders in the business community said the need to grow the state’s educated workforce is critical to bringing news businesses to Ohio and to help the ones already here to thrive.

“The JobsOhio pipeline is full of businesses that want to move here, and we have a lot of great businesses that are operating here today with not enough people,” said Ohio Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Steve Stivers. “We need more people in Ohio. We’ve got to get them to move here, and [the GROW Act is] going to start by getting college students to move here from other states, and it’s not just any college students, it’s the best and brightest.”

The GROW Act was just introduced in the General Assembly but already has bipartisan support.

“Part of this is also putting Ohio front and center amongst all of our neighboring states, and around the country, that this is the best place to invest, the best place to live and work, and I stand by that 100%,” Cross said.

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