Ohio State President Emeritus E. Gordon Gee is set to lead a study seeking ways to improve higher education for Ohio students.
Gee’s research will focus on college affordability and relevance for Ohio students, he said at a Monday meeting of the Ohio Board of Regents Trustees after the study was announced by Ohio Gov. John Kasich.
“Just today, if you noticed, the governor announced that I’m going to take on a major initiative of the state, talking about what I think is the burning issue of today, and that is how does one increase quality of higher education and how does one do it in a way that it’s cost effective and affordable for students,” Gee said in a Monday interview with The Lantern. “We know how to increase quality, we know how to cut budgets, but we don’t know how to bring the concept of cost and quality together, so that’s what were really trying to do with this.”
Gee said at the Monday Board of Regents meeting he didn’t want to predict the outcome of the study, but added it should be a collaborative, statewide investigation, although other members have not yet been publicly announced.
“The beauty of what we’re doing is the fact that there aren’t specifics,” Gee said of his new initiative at the meeting. “This is a soft science. We know the questions, and I don’t want to have preconceived notions about it. So we’re going to do what I think is in the best interest of the state.”
The two have worked together on higher education initiatives in the past, including earlier this year when Kasich asked Gee to work on an effort to identify a solution to divide the education dollars for the state budget.
Undergraduate Student Government president Taylor Stepp said affordability is an important aspect of higher education and he was happy to hear about the partnership.
“Affordability is a huge concern not just for USG but for really the nation,” said Stepp, a fourth-year in public affairs. “We are in the midst of what I believe is a crisis not only with student debt but affordability. Unfortunately, students are not getting need-based aid.”
Stepp also said Gee’s research lines up with USG’s priorities, especially those of a newly formed group, the Commission to Rethink Access, which was announced Wednesday and will also focus on issues of college expenses.
“We are doing a lot of parallel things right now … we need to focus on what value is, what access is in this day in age,” Stepp said.
Zach Fleer, a third-year in strategic communication, said Gee’s partnership with Kasich was a good move.
“I think we’re going to get some great results,” Fleer said. “From that partnership, I think it’s going to have a positive impact for students, and that should really help (Gee’s) case and what he’s trying to accomplish.”
Gee said the initiative won’t necessarily lower tuition, but will look for an opportunity for the state to be more “cost-effective.”
Tuition at OSU for the 2013-14 academic year is $10,010 for in-state students and $25,726 for out-of-state students. Room and board cost $10,800 per year for on-campus students, according to the OSU Undergraduate Admissions website.
Fleer said OSU was an affordable option for him.
“It’s been pretty affordable for me,” Fleer said. “I come from a lower middle class family, and I’ve been able to, through grants from the university, afford my education in ways that might not be possible at other institutions … Ohio State has a lot of programs designed to award students who are doing well in the classroom and help students out who are maybe struggling financially. As far as affordability is concerned, I’m very pleased with Ohio State, and I think we’re doing a great job.”
Andrew Wells, a second-year in philosophy, agreed OSU was affordable.
“I would say comparatively to other campuses, tuition is pretty affordable — it’s housing that’s pretty killer. I know that I save a lot of the cost of living by living off-campus, so it’s really affordable for me,” Wells said.
Gee said he was looking forward to the new initiative and a new way of looking at higher education for him.
“I’ve always said, I spent 33 years running, now I want to spend a few years thinking about these issues of higher education,” he said.
Gee announced his retirement from the role of university president June 4, days after controversial remarks he made at a Dec. 5 OSU Athletic Conference meeting came under public scrutiny. Comments about Notre Dame and the Southeastern Conference in particular brought national attention.
Andrea Henderson and Daniel Fyffe contributed to this article.