Changing Trends

Developments in state funding and demographics promise big changes in higher education
By Corinne Minard

If you think that college tuition in Ohio is more expensive than it was 10 years ago, you’re not wrong. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2007 the average in-state total price for school (tuition, board, etc.) was $28,378 and out-of-state was $30,359. In 2018, it was $38,207 for in-state and $40,755 for out-of-state. This is an increase of about 35% for each.

And having a college degree is becoming ever more important. The Ohio Department of Higher Education predicts that in 2020, 64% of jobs in Ohio will require a post-secondary degree or high-quality credential. But according to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2017, only about 30% of state residents age 25 or older had a bachelor’s degree or higher. The Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland says this places the state of Ohio in the bottom third of all states in terms of educational attainment. The state is working toward a goal of 1.7 million more adults, or 65% of residents, to have college degrees or certificates by 2025, but as of August 2017 the state has only attainted 43% of its goal.

Unfortunately, the cost of getting a college degree, as well as the shrinking population, is not going to make hitting this goal any easier. In the 2016 Affordability Diagnosis, which was published by researchers at the Penn Graduate School of Education and Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College, Ohio was ranked as the 45th least affordable state to attend college.

The reasons for Ohio’s tuition hike are many, but much of it stems from the amount of money the state spends on higher education—according to the Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland, Ohio spent just 7% of state and federal expenditures on higher education while on average other states spend 10%.

In the report “Demographic Shifts and Enrollment Trends in Higher Education,” from Kent Sate University at Stark, Ohio was one of 19 states that reduced their spending in higher education in fiscal year 2018—the majority increased their spending. The report also states that while Ohio did increase its spending in the two- and five-year periods leading up to 2018, it did so at lower percentages than the country average.

In addition to directing less funds to schools, Ohio is giving out less aid to in-need students. While the state granted aid to 35% of first-time undergraduate students in 2008, in 2017 it only did so for 13%. The Higher Education Compact of Greater Cleveland says that Ohio ranked 12th highest in the nation for students taking loans in 2016, with students who borrow graduating with the 11th largest debt load: an average of $29,353.

Shifting demographics will also make hitting Ohio’s goal of 1.7 million more residents with degrees or certificates difficult. According to “Knocking on the College Door,” a report by the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education, the number of high school graduates in Ohio peaked in 2011 at 137,000 and will decline to 111,000 in 2032. WICHE predicts a 20% decline in the number of high school graduates over those two decades.

Total state enrollment has remained relatively steady over the last few years, but as demographics change and tuitions increase, increasing the number of Ohioans with degrees will only get harder.