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Ohio won’t meet higher education attainment goals by 2025, University of Pennsylvania study says

July 13, 2018

Ohio won’t meet higher education attainment goals by 2025, University of Pennsylvania study says

CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Inequity in who has access to higher education is dragging down educational opportunity in Ohio, according to a new study. 

The University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Research on Higher Education ranked states on educational opportunity. Those scores were based on four areas: education performance, education equity, higher education funding and productivity and state economy and finances.

Ohio currently has an attainment goal of 65 percent by 2025, meaning that officials want 65 percent of residents aged 25 through 64 to have a degree, license or certificate.

If nothing improves, Ohio will miss a 60 percent goal by nearly a million credentials, according to the study.

Ohio Department of Higher Education spokesman Jeff Robinson said the study might not have calculated in some indicators that the state is making progress, including the fact that funding for higher education in Ohio has increased by 14 percent since fiscal year 2012 and the improvements stemming from the state’s College Credit Plus program. 

“That said, we know we need to improve to reach our goal regardless of the ranking given in the study, and we will continue to work diligently to do so,” he added. 

How does Ohio rank?

Ohio ranked 35th out of the 50 states.

The top five, or the states with the smallest threat to educational opportunity were: 

WashingtonVermontVirginia IowaMinnesota

The states ranked with the highest risk were:

Mississippi MontanaAlabamaSouth Carolina Louisiana 

Why is Ohio ranked so poorly?

A major reason Ohio’s risk is determined to be so high is because of the factor of equity of education. To determine equity, researchers looked at:

High school and postsecondary completion rates, meaning the difference between the percentage of white students who get high school diplomas and degrees and other ethnic and racial groupsPostsecondary participation, which shows how the percentage of students enrolled in degree or certificate programs in certain racial or ethnic groups compares to the percentage of that group in the state’s populationGeographic equity, meaning how far away county centers are from a place where you can get a degree.

Ohio ranked higher on geographic equity, but landed at 48th in high school completion. The difference between white students and students from other racial and ethnic groups was about 21 percent.

Overall, Ohio ranked 40th for educational equity, just above Minnesota and Mississippi.  

What about other factors?

Ohio ranked 34th in educational performance, which is a “moderate” risk. That score is based on student performance in national assessments, the number of young adults and working-age adults who enroll in post-secondary programs and college affordability. 

College affordability in Ohio recently has often ranked poorly -- this study puts it at 35th. 

For higher education funding and productivity, Ohio ranked in the top 50 percent of states in the 22nd spot. This considers “postsecondary productivity,” which basically means how much money the state spends per degree and certificate, how many certificates and degrees the state awards and how much funding fluctuates for higher education in the state.

Though this ranking is slightly higher, the risk is still determined as moderate. 

Ohio also ranked 22nd for its state economy, which takes into account state reserves, how much the state spends each year, state gross domestic product and the “new economy index,” which means how much the state’s economy matches knowledge-based industries. 

The new economy index is ranked at 25th. 

Read the full state analysis in the document viewer at the bottom of this post. 

Why does this matter? 

Ohio is shooting for lofty attainment goals by 2025, and is putting new initiatives into place to do so. Recently, the state endorsed an online-only university, Western Governor’s University, in an attempt to provide more opportunities for post-credential degrees. 

Some of the policies related to educational opportunity overlap into K-12 education, particularly in educational inequity, where Ohio struggles. 

For example, new tougher standards would have stopped at least third of graduating students this spring from receiving diplomas, The Plain Dealer’s Patrick O’ Donnell reports. 

Studies like this can inform state policymakers on risk in different areas. Researchers recommend the state do an audit of policies linked to the different factors described in the study and form a compact to address them.

Ohio already requires regional compacts of public universities to try to increase collaboration and make the process of getting a degree easier.

This story has been updated to include a comment from the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

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