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Candidate Questionnaire Responses from Nina Turner and David Pepper

OCAAUP sent questionnaires to candidates of both political parties running for Governor, Secretary of State, and Attorney General. Below are the responses received from State Sen. Nina Turner (D), candidate for Secretary of State, and David Pepper (D), candidate for Attorney General.  Thank you to these candidates for their responses!


State Sen. Nina Turner for Ohio Secretary of State

What is your position on current levels of state funding to higher education?
• I believe that the state of Ohio is currently underfunding our public university and college system. This reality leads to increasing pressure on faculty to expanded course loads, as well as dramatic tuition increases that affect the academic rigor at these institutions and increase student debt loads. It also creates an incentive for administrators to cut full time faculty in favor of adjuncts, many of which are overworked and underpaid.

The state has also decreased support for financial aid programs like the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG). Funding for this program has never recovered to its peak before the recent recession.

If you believe that state support for public higher education ought to be increased, how, specifically, would you attempt to increase it?
• First, I believe we need to re-examine the state’s recent propensity to pass tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy few.  Instead of pursuing the failed trickle-down economic policies of the past, we should be using funds to invest in our educational system at all levels. That is the only way to ensure that the next generation is prepared to be successful working adults.

This year, the state is slated to have a surplus of hundreds of millions of dollars. This should be re-invested in education and financial aid programs to help Ohioans succeed.
 
What specific plans would you propose or support to reduce the current levels of student debt?
• As Secretary of State, I would not be directly involved in this space, but I believe that by investing additional funds into basic support for public colleges and universities, and increasing state support for financial aid programs like OCOG, we can help keep down the cost of higher education and student debt loads.

The state also needs to increase financial literacy outreach to educate parents and students about their financial options and the consequences of the loans they are taking out, regardless of what school that student attends. Steering more students toward community colleges for their first two years of school, or expanding the ability of advanced high school students to earn college credit, would also do a lot to reduce the overall cost of college for Ohio students and their families.

Do you agree that the dramatic increase in administrators and administrative staff and their compensation, at the expense of allocations to instruction, is a major driver of the cost of postsecondary education? If you agree that this is major issue, how would you address it?
• The numbers don’t lie; administrative expenses continue to comprise a larger and larger share of college budgets. If we want to reduce the ballooning administrative costs at colleges and universities, we need to shift focus away from the bells and whistles of campus life and back toward academics and classroom instruction.

Do you agree that for-profit colleges and universities need increased regulation? If you do, what specific proposals would you support at the state level?
• I am not ideologically opposed to for-profit colleges and universities, as I believe students need to be able to find the academic situation that fits their needs. However, I do believe that all institutions should be forthright with their students about their likelihood of success, costs, and career prospects as compared to other educational options and should be held to the same standards as non-profit educational institutions.

Do you support collective bargaining by public employees—by college and university faculty and staff, in particular?
• I do, unequivocally. I travelled the state campaigning against Senate Bill 5 in 2011, and working to educate Ohioans about what was at stake. I also fully support the ability to collectively bargain for adjunct and other part time faculty at public institutions. This is why I introduced Senate Bill 65—every worker deserves a seat at the table.

Do you agree that the increased reliance on adjunct faculty is exploitative of these faculty and undermines the value of the instruction provided by our colleges and universities? If so, how, specifically, would you address this issue?
• I believe that the increasing reliance on adjuncts does undermine instructional value. Although these faculty members are no less committed to their work than their tenured and tenure-track peers, the pressure of having to string together more classes at multiple institutions, oftentimes, to make ends meet, makes it more difficult for adjuncts to dedicate the time they would like to their students.

One of the most effective ways to address this issue would be to enact rules at the state level regulating maximum course load and instituting other protections. In addition, I believe adjuncts should be allowed to collectively bargain on an institution by institution basis.

Do you support a change in state law to allow adjunct faculty at public colleges and universities to engage in collective bargaining?
• Absolutely. This is why I introduced Senate Bill 65 in the Ohio Senate. As a former adjunct and present AAUP member, I know from first-hand experience the value of ensuring these professionals have a seat at the table.

Do you support a change in state law to allow graduate students at public colleges and universities to engage in collective bargaining?
• Yes. Graduate students are also covered in Senate Bill 65. If any of an institution’s instructors are excluded from having input into how their working life is structured, there will be room for them to be taken advantage of.

Do you believe that both employer institutions and individual employees need to make equal contributions to the public employee pension systems, in particular the State Teachers Retirement System?
• Yes. Equal contributions from both employees and employer is the fairest way to go about things. Ohio’s educators are tasked with preparing the next generation of Buckeyes for successful lives—the least we can do is ensure they have a secure retirement.


David Pepper for Ohio Attorney General

1. What is your position on current funding levels for higher education?

Increased higher education funding should be a priority for the state. Ohio has one of the most comprehensive systems of public higher education in the country, and we need to do everything we can to maintain access to high quality colleges and universities for all Ohioans.

2. How, specifically, would you attempt to increase higher education funding?

So many public dollars are being wasted on bad decisions driven by pay-to-play politics…and the most clear example is how much money is being wasted on charter schools that are completely failing. So my plan is to reduce wasteful spending by cracking down on pay to play, bringing far more accountability and transparency in areas such as charter schools, which would free up million of dollars to be invested in quality public education at all levels. 

I also will end the pay-to-play system the Mike DeWine uses in the area of collections, which led to declining collections revenues in 2012 and 2013. Fixing this corrupted system will bring more revenues back to state coffers.

3. What specific plans would you propose to reduce student debt?

I am hugely concerned that our students are being saddled with debt for decades, holding them back and hurting our economy.

As attorney general, I will do all I can to keep the cost of tuition down, and to crack down on lending practices that harm students.  I will use the office to investigate lenders who exhibit deceptive marketing or other lending practices to ensure that the student loan market operates in the best interest of students, not the best interest of lenders’ profits. 

4. Do you agree that the dramatic increase in administrators and administrative staff and their compensation, at the expense of allocations to instruction, is a major driver of the cost of postsecondary education? If you do agree that this is major, how would you address it?

It’s a major concern. And I will be a voice for administrative efficiency and other steps to maximize focus on and investment in instruction

5. Do you agree that for-profit colleges/universities need regulation? If so, what proposals would you support?

As attorney general, I will focus in particular on cracking down on for profit colleges that engage in deceptive practices to lure students into high-cost, low-reward programs. The AG’s consumer protection section can serve both an enforcement and education function to ensure both that illegal practices are stopped and that potential students are aware of scams and traps that may exist.

6. Do you support collective bargaining by public employees – by college and university staff and faculty in particular?

Yes. I have a long commitment to collective bargaining rights for public employees. During the battle in Ohio over Senate Bill 5, I testified against the bill before the General Assembly and served as a traveling spokesman for the We Are Ohio campaign to repeal it.

7. Do you agree that increase reliance on adjunct faculty is exploitative and undermines the value of instruction provided by universities and colleges? If so, how, specifically, you would address this issue?

I think adjunct faculty can be useful at times, but the practice of using them can be abused in a way that undermines overall instruction.

8. Do you support changing state law to allow adjunct faculty at public universities and colleges to engage in collective bargaining?

Yes.

9. Do you support changing state law to allow graduate students at public universities and colleges to engage in collective bargaining?

Depending on what role those graduate students are playing, yes.

10. Do you believe that both employer institutions and individual employees need to make equal contributions to the public employee pension systems, in particular STRS?

Yes.