When higher education professionals talk of states that put support for higher education high on the list of priorities, only lately has Ohio been able to include itself among the ranks of new movers and shakers.
The Buckeye State, which boasts one of the nation's largest systems of public higher education, is embarking upon a new chapter in higher education, one that is drawing mixed reviews as state leaders contend dramatic changes are needed to sustain the state as a magnet to employers and expand taxpayer support for public higher education. This comes at a time when the state's economy is hard pressed, unemployment is high and its historic manufacturing-based jobs economy has all but disappeared. "When you have a system this big, you focus on quality and affordability, but also how you become accountable," says Eric Fingerhut, the Cleveland lawyer, former state and federal lawmaker who serves as chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, the state's policymaking body for higher education. "You turn from a group of institutions that compete with each other to a system that is collaborative and shares goals," says Fingerhut of the state's new pursuits.
Today, Ohio is in the second year of a 10-year plan that embraces a variety of so-called reforms, including performance-based funding, for its 14 major colleges and universities, 23 community …