Ted Strickland and Eric Fingerhut advanced the notion of the state’s far-flung colleges and universities thinking of their institutions as one. They christened the University System of Ohio. Now John Kasich has pressed further. The governor pointed to the tight capital appropriations budget and told the schools to craft a proposal together, building a consensus around priorities.
A seven-member planning commission, led by E. Gordon Gee, the president of Ohio State University, has been working on the task, facing a deadline of the middle of next month. The advantage in the governor’s approach is that the process takes a detour around the usual practice of the best lobbying team prevailing at the Statehouse.
As Bruce Johnson, the president of the Inter-University Council, explained to Gongwer Ohio, the approach is “more strategic,” the schools pushed to weigh what is best for the whole, a practically revolutionary turn for the state.
The job won’t be easy — beyond the familiar rivalries and competing agendas. The governor has stressed the hard reality of the capital budget. Colleges and universities will be dividing roughly $400 million, below the $498 million of 2009-10 and the $528 million of 2007-08. The state skipped a capital budget in the most recent fiscal years.
Clearly, the commission won’t come close to covering the cost each school’s top priorities. Still, the members are likely to route the money more wisely, the exercise, ideally, opening the way to broader and sustained collaboration.