Ohio leader wants to recognize college benchmarks

5:46 PM, Jan 22, 2012   |    comments
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CLEVELAND -- The overseer of Ohio's higher education system is proposing that students should get a career-readiness certificate after one year of college and an associate's degree after two years, even if they're working toward a four-year degree.

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro's priorities include retaining more students and helping more to graduate, The Plain Dealer in Cleveland reported.

 "Clearly there has to be a motivational weakness that causes a student to start college and not finish," Petro said. "The notion is to give recognition at every stage of the program."

Petro recently told the board he wants to implement a number of programs this year, even if university officials are opposed. He said he'll start with pilot programs at Central State University and Shawnee State University, which have low graduation rates.

The regents say about 56 percent of Ohio students who enrolled as full-time freshmen in 2004 had earned degrees six years later, about the same as their national counterparts.  "Every day I wake up and wonder, 'What can we do to get more degrees and complete degrees?'" Petro told the regents.

"Only 36 percent or 37 percent of Ohioans have two- or four-year degrees. Ohio's economic fortune is tied to our initiative."  University of Akron President Luis Proenza said Petro's plan to allow two-year degrees at four-year universities would offer benchmarks for students to achieve.

 "A lot of four-year universities think associate degrees mean they have lower standards, but in the sense it will give a milestone, it is fantastic," he told The Plain Dealer.  Petro said his proposed one-year "Certificate of Career Readiness" would require the passing of a test and would help students if they leave school and look for a job.

Another proposal would allow community-college students year-round block scheduling, such as being able to earn an associate's degree by attending school from 8 a.m. to noon five days a week for 18 months.

At Cuyahoga County Community College, President Jerry Sue Thornton said scheduling allows students to take classes in mornings, afternoons or evenings, but that there is not a system for offering courses in blocks tied to specific degree programs, as suggested by Petro.

"What he wants to do is take clusters or schedules and advertise it as a block," she said. "You can sit down with the student and map it out. It is a great idea, and we have the structure to do it."

The Associated Press

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