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Cooperation on Ohio campuses

February 29, 2012
Salem News

Higher education officials are experts at protecting - and expanding - their "turf." When the money comes from taxpayers, that is a problem.

Too often public colleges and universities compete for scarce state funding with little regard for cooperation to serve the public better. If capital expenditure funding or ongoing support for new programs is available, it had better go to dear old Selfish U. for empire-building instead of to another institution that might be able to utilize the money better.

But a few months ago, Gov. John Kasich told Ohio colleges and universities to get over it. He ordered them to submit a cooperative plan for spending $350 million on capital improvement and repair projects.

That is a significant reduction from the $431 million higher education was allocated in the 2009-10 budget. In normal times it might have been expected the 37 college and university campuses told to share the money would do battle over it.

Perhaps there were some disagreements but, in the end, Kasich was handed a proposal that met his budgeted figure and, wonder of wonders, involves some cooperation rather than confrontation.

Much of the money will have to go for long-postponed repairs to keep buildings and grounds usuable. But it appears the institutions took a farsighted, statewide approach to funds available for new programs. For example, they agreed Stark Community College in Canton should get $10 million - a far bigger piece of the pie than it might have received just a few years ago - for an energy center that will prepare Ohioans to make the most of the oil and gas drilling boom.

It may well be the state's multi-year budget crisis convinced higher education leaders they had to take a different approach to spending taxpayers' money. Whatever their reasoning, they seem to have put turf battles aside for the common good. That is a good thing for Ohioans.



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