Students must get money’s worth

Just 9 percent of the students admitted to Ohio’s Central State University obtain bachelor’s degrees within four years. Only two of the 13 state-run general purpose universities in the Buckeye State manage to get more than half their students in and out with degrees during that amount of time.

That wastes time and an enormous amount of money, both for students and their parents and taxpayers. The challenge should be high on the priority list of Ohio’s new higher education leader.

Wednesday, Gov. John Kasich announced he has appointed John Carey, formerly a state legislator from southern Ohio, as chancellor of the state Board of Regents. The board oversees 14 state universities and 23 community colleges and adult education centers.

At one time, a “four-year degree” meant just that, a bachelor’s degree obtained in four years. But throughout the nation, the yardstick for graduation has moved to five or even six years. That has made higher education much more expensive – prohibitively so, in some cases – for young people.

Five of Ohio’s general purpose state universities have four-year graduation rates below 20 percent (Central State, the University of Akron, Youngstown State, Shawnee State and Wright State). The only two with rates of 50 percent or better are Ohio State, at 51 percent, and Miami University, at 70 percent.

Carey has some direct familiarity with the problem. According to a published report, his last job was as a lobbyist for Shawnee State, with a 13 percent rate of four-year graduations.

Public colleges and universities simply have to do better. With annual cost of attendance at many in Ohio in the $20,000 range, too many students are not getting their money’s worth. Changing that should be Carey’s goal.