Executive State Budget Released
On Monday, Gov. Mike DeWine released his executive proposal for the next biennial state budget, allocating resources for Fiscal Years 2022-2023.
Unsurprisingly, the Governor did not show a willingness to seek new tax revenue or tap the state’s “Rainy Day Fund,” which many groups, including ours, have suggested is necessary to properly fund important public services.
Making headlines in the immediate hours following the budget’s unveiling was DeWine’s plan to set aside $1 billion for one-time “COVID relief” spending that will be used to boost bars and restaurants, local communities, and help workers gain new job skills.
Part of that billion includes $50 million for a national marketing campaign to promote Ohio as a “progressive state,” a great place to live, work, and attend school.
Critics were quick to jump on this piece of the pie, saying that the state should invest such funds in actually making Ohio better, which in turn would attract people to the state. There is not much policy-wise that has occurred in Ohio in many years that could be described as “progressive.”
Of the $74.5 billion in overall proposed General Revenue Fund (GRF) spending, about $5.5 billion is slated for higher education expenditures. When asked by a reporter about college and university funding during his budget press conference, DeWine said, “We think we’re treating them well.”
The vast majority of the higher education allocation ($4.13 billion) would be spent on State Share of Instruction (SSI) — the state’s primary funding stream to public colleges and universities. This represents about a 1.9% increase in funding over the biennium, which fails to keep pace with inflation.
The Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG) — the state’s fund that assists financially disadvantaged students — would get a 6.5% increase over the two-year period under DeWine’s plan, taking total funding to more than $211 million. This would raise the per-student award by $500/year.
OCOG is available to students who attend four-year universities, public or private, as well as other non-profit institutions. Technically, community college and regional campus students are not excluded from OCOG, but typically don’t receive these grants. Pell Grants plus Expected Family Contributions (EFC) have exceeded the average tuition/fees at these institutions, thus disqualifying students from OCOG eligibility.
Choose Ohio First
The “Choose Ohio First Scholarship,” which aims to encourage students to choose STEMM education at Ohio institutions, would get a 36.5% increase to $53 million over the two fiscal years. It appears that other STEMM-related line items would be zeroed out to funnel money into this scholarship pool.
Many other higher education line items — such as ones for specific university programs — would be cut for FY 2022 but the funding subsequently restored in FY 2023.
With Gov. DeWine restoring $100 million in cuts to higher education last week, as well as the small increases he has proposed for SSI, higher education is in a slightly better position than it might be otherwise. We have seen previous state budgets with significant cuts to higher education or flat funding. In other words, it could be worse.
Nevertheless, SSI funding would remain below pre-recession levels. This is simply unsustainable if the state wants our colleges and universities to operate at a high level of quality with affordable tuition for students.
We applaud the increased money to OCOG, but the total proposed funding for FY 2023 would still be far below where funding was for the grant 15 years ago. In addition, we believe legislators need to reexamine eligibility for community college and regional campus students, as those institutions are most often the access points for lower-income students.
This is just the beginning of a five-month budget process.
The Ohio House of Representatives will follow-up DeWine’s budget proposal by introducing formal legislation. The various components of the bill will be considered by House Finance Subcommittees, then the House Finance Committee will pass the bill and put it to a vote of the full House.
The Senate will then go through the same process, and a Conference Committee will convene to work out differences between the House and Senate versions before sending the budget bill to Gov. DeWine to sign by June 30.
As usual, we will be actively participating in the process, talking to legislators and testifying to committees. We will update you throughout the proceedings, and let you know if there are ways that you can support our efforts. Of course, we always urge you to get to know your local state lawmakers and educate them on higher education issues.