Higher education affordability was the dominant theme in recent legislative action. With the finalizing of the higher education budget for the next two years, the Legislature infused new state dollars in exchange for freezing tuition in all of Ohio’s two- and four-year colleges and universities over the biennium.
Edison Community College welcomes this important decision to keep tuition low and affordable for all our students and thereby ensuring that a college degree is within the reach of every Ohioan. Students leaving Ohio’s four-year universities have on the average about $29,000 in college debt, and community colleges provide a viable alternative in the first two years with affordable tuition and a focus on workforce preparation. Most of our students leave with little or no debt.
While all of our public four-year universities have articulated transfer agreements on selected coursework with our 23 community and technical colleges, language requires the chancellor of the Department of Higher Education to begin the process of ensuring that any associate degree earned at a community college can be universally transferred to any public university in Ohio. Edison Community College welcomes this work and furthers the theme, “Start Here, Finish There,” realistic and viable.
The Ohio Legislature and governor also directed our public colleges and universities to develop and implement plans to reduce overall costs to students of earning a degree by 5 percent. This is an important conversation as Ohio colleges and universities tend to be among the most expensive in the nation. Edison continues its commitment to provide access to affordable, quality higher education for our region with a cost of $4,218, less than one-half of tuition at our public universities.
The new College Credit Plus Program allows prepared high school students to take Edison classes tuition-free either at the local high school or on the college campuses. Completing the 60-credit associate degree using this program makes it economical for every student to get a college degree and it allows students to achieve specific credentials and/or an associate degree on their pathway to a bachelor’s degree in their chosen discipline. Thirty-one students graduated from Edison Community College in May with both an associate degree and a high school diploma. This trend is likely to continue.
Community colleges train 80 percent of licensed peace officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians in the United States today. Funding to pay for continuing education for police officers was also included in this legislative budget. Finally, the Ohio College Opportunity Grant funding was increased which will allow community college students to access summer school funding in 2016.
Edison Community College is so fortunate to have community leaders who have stepped forward to lead the college and represent the various segments of our service district. Board Chairman Darryl Mehaffie, along with Dr. Phillip Dubbs and Marvella Fletcher represent Darke County; Vice Chairman Tom Milligan, along with Gary Heitmeyer and Rob Joslin represent Shelby County; and Miami County is represented by Tony Wendeln, Mark Hamler and Tami Baird Danley. As a state community college, Edison Trustees are appointed by the governor, confirmed by the Senate and serve six-year terms, with three trustee positions coming up every other year. Their insight and expertise is invaluable to Edison Community College and so appreciated as together we increase economic vitality for our communities and region. All in all, many positive changes continue to happen at Edison!
The writer was interim president at Edison Community College from July 7, 2014, through June 30, 2015.