Last week, Chancellor Eric Fingerhut released his 10-year strategic plan for Ohio's colleges and universities (see here). Over the next decade, Ohio will seek to transform its higher-education institutions to boost educational attainment across the board. As Governor Ted Strickland develops his own K-12 education reform package, due out this time next year, there are at least five themes from Fingerhut's plan worth carrying over to primary and secondary education:
Accountability is the path to change. A higher-education accountability system will measure how individual institutions and the state progress. As institutions show progress, the state will ramp up its investment in those institutions. K-12 education also benefits from both transparency and accountability for results.
Institutions must embrace both cooperation and competition. Competition among universities and from private and out-of-state colleges has not spurred excellence. Fingerhut's strategy will push colleges and universities to work together on accomplishing a single set of statewide goals. Certainly, schools will still vie for the best and brightest students, but now enrolling more students than the next university will no longer be a primary indicator of success or the sole driver of state funds. Academic results matter now, too.
Students deserve choice in educational options. No two students are the same and no one university or college can be everything for every student. Universities should focus on their core missions and strengths in order to bolster their strongest programs. Students in Ohio should be able to choose from an array of high-quality options that meet their unique educational needs.
Funding should align with priorities and success. Dollars will be used to reward excellence. Innovative academic programs will be supported and encouraged and incentives offered for schools to collaborate, operate more efficiently, and meet the demands of their students and employers.
The system must be flexible. Ohio's colleges and universities have long histories and rich traditions, but they must keep an eye toward the future by responding quickly to changing circumstances and changing what doesn't work.