Presentations to Civic Organizations

Marion Rotary Club

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Good afternoon. Thank you for inviting me.

I’m going to share with you my thoughts on the importance of higher education to our economy, give you an overview of some of the challenges facing higher education, and of course tell you a little bit about BGSU.

I intimately understand the value of a college education. I was raised by a single mother, with just an eighth grade education, in a house without running water. My mother told my brothers and me to work hard and get an education. We took that to heart and all three of us achieved advanced degrees.

So, I am where I am today because – like many of you – higher education gave me the foundation to fulfill the American Dream. The economic benefits of a college education are clear both for individuals and the broader economy. Census data shows us that bachelor’s degree holders earn on average almost 30,000 dollars more a year than individuals with only a high school diploma.

A highly educated workforce is absolutely essential for the economic prosperity of our state. And frankly we’re not doing very well. The Ohio Board of Regents reports that right now – there are several thousand job vacancies in Ohio that continue to be unfilled because our workforce doe not have the education they need to qualify for the positions. The numbers may surprise you. In Ohio today, less than a one quarter of our residents – 24 percent – hold a bachelor’s degree or higher. Even more startling is that means Ohio ranks 39th in nation in the percentage of citizens with a bachelor’s degree or better.

Over the last 40 years there has been a gradual but fundamental shift in how public higher education in Ohio is funded. State support has declined – moving more of the costs to students and their families.
Let me give you an example.

In the late 60s, when a young Fran Voll was a student at BGSU – 68 percent of our budget came from the State of Ohio. Twenty years later when Dave Kielmeyer, a Pleasant High School graduate, was a student at the University, about 53 percent of our funding came from the State. Allyssa O’Neil, a graduate of Marion Harding, is currently one of our students...and this year just 25 percent of our funding comes from the State of Ohio.

This example isn’t unique to BGSU. The funding formula is the same for all of our public colleges and universities. This isn’t intended as a criticism of the Ohio’s leadership. It simply illustrates the new reality for higher education. And make no mistake about it. While Allyssa and her family are responsible for what is historically a larger proportion of the cost of her education -- it remains a tremendous investment.

But it does illustrate the major challenge facing higher education and the State. For our economic prosperity we need to educate more students. To do that, we have to make higher education more accessible at a time of dwindling public funding.

So what can we do about it?  

  • One step is to increase the number of what we call two-plus-two programs. That is where students spend two years at a community college or branch campus to earn an associates degree and then move on to a 4-year college or University main campus for their bachelor’s degree.

    We have a branch campus in Huron Ohio similar to your OSU branch here in Marion...where students can begin and in some case finish their bachelor’s degrees for significantly less cost. We also need to make transfer of credits between all of our colleges and universities easier and more seamless.
  • Creating select three-year degree programs also present an opportunity. The Ohio Board of Regents and the governor have asked us to look at developing bachelor’s degree programs that can be completed in three years. While not appropriate for all disciplines, there is potential here. Some students are already taking this route; particularly ones who are taking advantage of programs that allow them to begin taking college courses while in high school. By taking advantage of these opportunities some begin their college careers as sophomores.
  • Another opportunity is to combine some undergraduate and graduate programs. At BGSU, we’re beginning a new initiative to link our undergraduate and graduate education which will give our students an opportunity to earn a master’s degree in four to five years by being accepted into a broad range of accelerated bachelor/master’s degree programs. Just as the standard of education in this country has been the percent of the population that has a bachelor’s degree, the standard of the very near future will be a master’s degree or another advanced professional degree.

These initiatives are vital to the state and will help increase accessibility. The student benefits with lower costs. The economy benefits from a more skilled workforce that moves more quickly from college to work.

To help keep a BGSU education accessible, we’re aggressively pursuing private funding and donations to increase the scholarship opportunities for our students. Currently, more than half of our students receive scholarship assistance.

I also want you to know that we’re addressing basics. Like many of your businesses and organizations, we’ve tightened our belts. BGSU – and a number our peers – have cut costs, increased efficiency and we are investing more strategically.

Over the last two years alone, we’ve privatized our food service and developed two new dormitories through a public-private partnership that saved millions of dollars in construction costs. We also partner with other colleges in the state to reduce costs by leveraging our buying power in purchasing materials and services.

And we’re looking at ways to generate new revenue by commercializing the research developed by our faculty and putting their expertise to work. Last year three of our professors launched the Language services group. It utilizes the expertise of our students and faculty to provide translation services, cultural training, and language courses to business.

BGSU celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2010. We have over 175,000 alumni who are contributing to this state, the country and the world. We’re proud that the majority of our graduates remain in Ohio. In fact, we have just over 100,000 alumni the state. About 500 live in the Marion area.  60,000 alumni live in the other 49 states, and we have almost 2000 alumni in 125 countries.  

In addition to Fran….our other notable alums include individuals like Shantanu Narayen, president and chief executive officer of Adobe Systems; Eileen O’Neill, group president of Discovery Communications; Jimmy Light, an organ transplant pioneer; and Jennifer Higdon, a world-renowned composer and winner of both a Grammy and the Pulitzer Prize.

Our student body is equally diverse. We have students from all fifty states, the District of Columbia, three U.S. territories and 75 countries. About 40 are from the Marion area.   

This year we welcomed the 3rd largest freshmen class in history. 15% of these students are from out of state, the largest percentage in our history, and 22% are students of color.

We’re also extremely proud of our more than 400 student athletes who have an average grade point of over 3.0 –and who have earned recognition by the Mid-American Conference for this achievement.

Our alumni came to BGSU to get an education….to build a future for themselves and their families. While our current students face far different challenges, they came for the same reason.

We are proud of the fact that for the last 17 years we have been ranked in the top 100 public universities in the country as noted by US News and World Report. And over the last several years, US News and World Report has recognized us for our first year experience programs and learning communities.  

Included in US News and World Report rankings is a factor considered “value added” of a college education which is composed of the expected vs. the actual 6-year graduation rate.  BGSU was number one in the State of Ohio on this factor and third in the nation.

As we begin our second century of service, BGSU is experiencing a renaissance. We’ve just completed more than 200 million dollars in construction and opened two new dining facilities, two new residence halls, the Stroh Center – our new arena and convocation center -- and the Wolfe Center for the Arts.  We are very excited about continuing this renaissance with the renewal of our academic facilities.

As we build on the success and history of our undergraduate programs, our task over the next five years will be to support the most innovative undergraduate curriculum enhancements in the country — some of which have already begun.  

We want every student to engage in experiential learning while they pursue the undergraduate degree.  Beginning in the freshmen year, each student’s degree program will be integrated, starting with living and learning communities through a senior capstone experience.

No matter what their major, our students will be provided with the curricular and co-curricular experiences that ensure they graduate with critical thinking skills and problem solving abilities.  These experiences are the basis for lifelong learning and paramount for a successful career.  

Our goal is to educate BGSU students for future careers that will meet the challenges of this country and the world’s social and economic needs.  In addition, we will continue to build our undergraduate research programs and our study abroad programs to ensure that our students have a global experience and opportunities for research and creative scholarship.  
BGSU began as a teachers college. We’re extremely proud of that history, and 101 years later we still graduate the largest number of licensed teachers in the State of Ohio. We’re also extremely strong in other key academic areas.

Of the 48 Ohio Board of Regents Centers of Excellence, BGSU has three selected programs.  They are Sustainability and the Environment, Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan, and Developing Effective Businesses and Organizations.  Each Center provides us with an opportunity to propel BGSU in research and scholarship, teaching and learning, and engagement and outreach.

Our researchers in Sustainability and the Environment have generated over forty million dollars in external funding with our unique Photochemical Sciences program.  They have done and continue to do ground breaking research with photovoltaic cells – the building block for solar energy applications – that will assist the US in becoming more energy independent.

Our Center of Excellence in Health and Wellness Across the Lifespan promotes wellness and quality of life to help lower costs for health care and reduce the number of missed days at work.  It builds on the work of more than 100 faculty members, 5,000 students and 78 academic programs, research units and student activity groups that have $11 million in research grant awards and nearly a million in student support grants as well as over 300 partnerships with health organizations and agencies in the community.  

Third, in the Developing Effective Businesses and Organizations Center of Excellence, we connect faculty and students with companies to work on applied learning projects, and we organize the most comprehensive business plan competition in NW Ohio and one of the largest annual entrepreneurship events in the state.

We have two other BGSU Centers that have built strong national reputations. Our Center for Marriage and the Family is a nationally recognized center focused on the changing attributes of the US family and is funded by the US Department of Health and Human Services.  In collaboration with Ohio University, our Center for Regional Development received a 1.6 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce to build a regional workforce development database.  It also won a national award for its work, and in the future, our faculty and students will continue to receive national recognition.  

In terms of creative scholarship, we have outstanding programs in music, art, and theatre and film.

BGSU offers an excellent educational experience inside and outside of the classroom and on and off the field.  As John F. Kennedy said “Let us think of education as the means of developing our greatest abilities, because in each of us there is a private hope and dream, which, fulfilled, can be translated into benefit for everyone and greater strength for our nation. For education is the mainspring of our economic and social progress—it is the highest expression of achievement in our society, ennobling and enriching human life.”

At Bowling Green State University we work every day to give our students the opportunity to live a new global American Dream through higher education.
BGSU and all of higher education must now rise up and meet the challenges of leadership in this country to ensure that the new global American Dream is possible for this generation of students and for the generations to come.  

Thank you for inviting me. If we have time, I would be happy to take any questions you might have.