How to run a university like an enterprise

Just 26 percent of Ohio adult workers hold college degrees, below the national average of 31 percent.

Is too much state regulation hindering efficiency at public universities? Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro thinks so, and he unveiled a plan Aug. 11 that would allow the state’s universities to operate as enterprises, also called charters, as well as set up a sizeable merit scholarship program.

Universities that choose to participate in the Enterprise University Plan would receive more autonomy in funding issues that traditionally require approval from the state controlling board, such as enrollment limits, tuition levels, and property sales.

“They’ve asked for—aggressively—I mean, the universities have said time and again, ‘Get rid of these mandates. They’re really slogging us down, we can’t do the things we want to do, we can’t be enterprise-driven,’” Petro said in a press conference. “So the plan is, we get rid of virtually all the mandates.”

In return for freedom from about 40 mandates, the universities would be expected to function much like a private business and take greater control over their costs.

The act of freeing universities from state mandates alone would allow the schools to cut overhead and become “more lean and nimble in their operations,” Petro said. Universities would also be responsible for cutting costs and generating revenue by making investments.

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