The Ohio House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on its biennial budget, House Bill 59, on Thursday. The bill contains provisions that will impact institutions of higher education such as Youngstown State University.
Gov. John Kasich’s initial funding formula for state colleges and universities has remained unchanged.
YSU is projected to receive a 1.1 percent increase in state funding, or $408,743 more during fiscal year 2014. This is the first year that funding has increased since 2009. State contributions to YSU’s operating budget have fallen by half since the beginning of the millennium.
The funding formula will award 50 percent of the state’s contribution to the general fund based on graduation rates. Only 28.2 percent of funds will be awarded for course completion.
Rob Nichols, Kasich’s press secretary, said this formula gives state colleges and universities incentives to graduate students.
“Funding should be directly tied to graduation rates,” Nichols said.
While the funding formula remained the same, House Bill 59 makes changes to some provisions that impact institutions of higher education.
The house added $8.1 million to the budget to provide bridge funding to schools that will experience a decrease in state funding next year. This supplemental money is available only during the first year of the budget and will be given to institutions based on performance.
Sen. Joe Schiavoni said House Bill 59 poorly defines performance, leaving the parameters up to speculation.
“Whenever you are going to talk about performance- or merit-based pay, you have to consider the criteria. Who is the judge of performance? Who is to say? I would only vote for a merit-based bill if the requirements are specifically enumerated,” Schiavoni said.
House Bill 59 also allows universities to establish a fixed tuition price for a four-year degree. Schools can enforce a one-time 6 percent tuition increase.
Sen. Capri Cafaro expressed concern with this tuition increase.
“The bill allows for a one-time tuition increase, but how often is that one time?” Cafaro said.
The House’s budget removes Kasich’s provision for an increase in college professors’ workloads without an increase in compensation.
Annette Burden, an assistant professor in the mathematics and statistics department, serves as president of the YSU chapter of the Ohio Education Association. Burden said the House’s decision to remove this provision is good for YSU professors.
“[House Bill 59] does not appear to have [the provision that pertained to increased faculty workload]. If that provision has now been deleted, that is very good news for full-time faculty in Ohio,” Burden said.