On Monday, June 8, after several weeks of subcommittee hearings, Ohio Senate leadership unveiled their version of the state budget bill, Amended Substitute House Bill 64.
Amendments to the higher education portions of the bill were among the most notable.
While the House version of the bill allowed for capped tuition increases, the Senate has proposed freezing tuition over the biennium while adding an additional $240 million to State Share of Instruction (SSI). This change would represent the first real increase to SSI funding since Fiscal Year 2011 under former Gov. Strickland.
However, Senate Republicans still plan to push colleges and universities to cut in-state cost of attendance by 5% for the 2016-17 academic year. Coupled with the tuition freezes, this likely will neutralize the SSI gains.
Across the board, stakeholders had been calling for additional moneys for the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG), which assists lower income students. The Senate proposal would boost OCOG by $100 million over the next two fiscal years, a good step toward restoring funding for the grant that was cut heavily in 2009.
There was no language inserted that would impact faculty collective bargaining rights.
The full Senate Finance Committee will hold hearings over the next week before the bill is formerly voted out of committee and out of the full Senate. It then will be sent to a Conference Committee comprised of members from the House and Senate to work out the differences between the bill versions. Consequently, there could be more changes to higher education prior to the legislation reaching Gov. Kasich’s desk.