Meeting the mark

The Ohio Board of Regents is proposing a plan to create a set of benchmarks for students working toward a four-year degree at a state university. 

Chancellor Jim Petro said he hopes the plan will retain more students and help them graduate, according to the Associated Press. 

Petro is proposing that a student would receive a career-readiness certificate after a year of study and an associate degree after two years, even if the student is primarily focused on obtaining a bachelor’s degree or above.

“Sometimes, for a variety of reasons, students don’t complete all four years of study,” said Kim Norris, an OBOR spokeswoman. “This plan will hopefully keep students motivated and help them continue.”

Norris said for every 1 percent increase in the number of Ohioans with a bachelor’s degree, the state will see economic activity equal to $2.5 billion per year and every year after.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, around 24 percent of Ohio’s adults hold at least a bachelor’s degree, ranking Ohio 38th in the nation in terms of educational attainment.  

For students not immediately seeking a bachelor’s degree, a career-readiness certificate could allow students to leave school and look for a job.  

Norris said the certificate would require 30 hours of study.

“[The board of regents] still encourages all students to complete their degree,” Norris said. “If after one year, a student wanted to get to work, they could get a co-op or an internship right away and get their foot in the door.”

Jack Fahey, vice president for student affairs and ombudsperson at Youngstown State University, said he sees both pros and cons in the plan.

“I like the idea of awarding an associate’s degree on the way to a bachelor’s,” Fahey said. “Some people perceive the associate’s degree negatively, inferring that the student didn’t intend to get a bachelor’s from the beginning.”

Fahey said he doesn’t think the benchmark degrees will encourage students to stop before completing their bachelor’s degree.

Moriah Diglaw, a freshman graphic design major at YSU, said the plan wouldn’t affect her goal of finishing her degree on schedule. 

“No matter what field of study a student is in, it all depends on how determined they are to finish what they started going to college for,” Diglaw said.

Cherie Ruth, a sophomore dental hygiene student at YSU, said she’s concerned that less motivated students might give up without achieving their full potential. 

“It depends on the student’s situation,” Ruth said. “Students can face a variety of issues, from financial to pregnancy or family problems.”

Ruth said it would be likely that, under the plan, many students won’t continue after completing a year or two of school — even if earning a bachelor’s degree is their ultimate goal. 

The board is also focusing on three-year degrees, which are designed to ease the financial burden on students while providing them with a quality education. Norris said budget provisions call for an increase in three-year programs at state universities.

“A three-year degree would provide some unique challenges and are not for everyone,” Norris said. “But for students who want to move faster and get into the workforce, it will provide the option.”

Fahey said academic affairs is working on a list of programs at YSU that could be completed in three years. 

“Most [three-year degrees] will require intensive summer terms and likely rely on credits received during high school,” he said.