A group of higher education presidents on Wednesday submitted to the Kasich Administration their request for $350 million in capital funding requests, all of which were mutually agreed upon.
Gov. Kasich in December called together the Higher Education Capital Funding Collaborative made up of university and community college leaders and asked them to work together to develop their funding requests for this year’s capital bill.
In the past the higher education institutions have fought to get their projects funded without an eye to the needs of the state. Office of Budget and Management Director, TimKeen, said former capital bills considered projects based on square footage, age of the building and student growth. “They were set up really to allocate money amongst the universities, but that was it. It lacked a strategic system-wide view,” he said during a conference call with reporters.
Ohio State University President E. Gordon Gee, who led the collaborative, said in the past a university might get funding to cover a third of the cost of a project or no money at all. “It was bureaucratic, and this process was one in which the governor really said, hey look, let’s do away with the bureaucratic; let’s see if institutions cannot come up with a principled approach,” he said. The result was a “substantially different” document than those put forth in the past, he said.
For example, Stark State College’s energy industry training center might have garnered $1 million in the past, but in this approach the group recommended it receive the full $10 million to focus on developing a strong energy program for Ohio.
Wright State University had originally proposed a renovation project this year. Once the collaborative was formed, it came back with a different proposal pairing the school and private health care providers, President Gee said.
“I cannot overemphasize that by allowing the institutions to think in a more collaborative way even amongst themselves within the institution that we really have come up with a substantially different document,” he said.
The administration advised the seven-member panel that the state planned to invest $400 million to higher education projects under the forthcoming capital bill. About $50 million of that was set aside for statewide projects.
“All of the presidents of community colleges, technical colleges, university presidents, all have signed this document indicating their support for what we’re doing, which in an of itself is very heartening,” Mr. Gee said.
He said the proposal will “allow us to be very competitive and most importantly will allow us to certainly work in the interest of 11.6 million Ohioans.”
Ohio University President Roderick McDavis said he was pleased with the process.
”I thought this was a very fair process, a way to prioritize the needs of universities and community colleges across the state,” he said. “The committee has done that with a process that welcomed input from each public university and community college in Ohio.”
Lloyd Jacobs, president of the University of Toledo, said the approach dealt with what he perceives as the two pillars of sustainability: innovation and collaboration.
“The development of principles relating to use-inspired research, use-inspired workforce knowledge, public-private partnerships are exactly the recipe for what the renaissance of the Midwest, the renaissance of manufacturing needs to consist of,” he said.
Members of the commission developed recommendations for projects based on four focus areas: public-private partnerships, workforce development, interdisciplinary approaches and long-term maintenance, according to the report.
Under the former category, the group recommended a total state investment of $14.78 million into four projects that would also see a local investment of $31.59 million and a private-sector support of $49.32 million. The projects are:
- Wright State University’s Neuroscience Engineering Collaboration at $12 million in state funding.
- University of Toledo’s Anatomy Simulation Center at $2 million.
- Northeast Ohio Medical University Redizone’s Partnership Development at $650,000.
- NEOMED’s Simulation Center Partnership at $125,000.
Workforce development projects recommended for funding total $30.39 million in state support and include:
- Stark State College’s Energy Industry Training Center at $10 million.
- Zane State College’s Energy Training and Education Center at $6 million.
- Belmont Technical College’s Health Sciences Center at $6 million.
- Sinclair Community College’s Life & Health Sciences Education Center at $4 million.
- Northwest State Community College’s Advanced Manufacturing Training Center at $3.54 million.
- North Central State College’s Health Sciences Center Renovation at $850,000.
Projects for interdisciplinary collaboration and innovation in STEM fields include projects totaling $96.93 million. The collaborative’s recommendations are:
- OSU’s Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering and Chemistry building at $50 million.
- Miami University’s Kreger Hall renovations at $18.2 million.
- Cleveland State University’s Fenn College of Engineering at $12.73 million.
- Kent State University’s Cunningham Hall repairs at $5 million, Williams Hall repairs at $5 million, Smith Hall repairs at $1 million, and Multidisciplinary Research Labs at $5 million.
The collaborative also recommended a lengthy list of long-term maintenance projects for a variety of institutions that total $207.9 million.
The administration might change the proposal before sending what Mr. Keen termed a “restrained capital bill” to the legislature, but officials said they are pleased with the process.
“We have not had a chance to review it fully, but I would say that we’re real pleased with the work product,” Director Keen said.
Gov. Kasich said this collaboration was the first step toward improving higher education in the state. “I have total confidence that it is a cultural change and a significant economic move forward for us.”