State budget will benefit students, employers

Ohio comprises many different regions, people and pursuits. Part of our strength comes from this diversity coupled with key commonalities that unite us. Those of us lucky enough to call Ohio home share a work ethic, creative problem-solving and a penchant for tenacity that makes our state a special place.

WGU Ohio celebrates our differences and our shared values as we take pride in our own particular pursuit: helping adult learners of every type acquire the skills and training to move themselves and our state ahead.

WGU Ohio fulfills our part in strengthening the state by offering affordable, competency-based, online higher education that aligns with the needs of students with real-world responsibilities: people with jobs, families—or both—and a desire to get ahead. In fact, three-quarters or our students work full-time jobs. They don’t have time or money to waste, so to make sure our programs prepare them directly for success, we constantly calibrate our instruction with employers to make sure what we teach prepares our students for the in-demand jobs that employers are desperately seeking to fill.

Additionally, we collaborate with our fellow higher education institutions in ways that put our students’ needs first. We have agreements with great partners like Ohio’s two-year community colleges to make sure that the credits their graduates have earned transfer seamlessly to our programs so students don’t miss a beat as they pursue their bachelor’s or master’s degrees. Our partnership with the state’s community colleges emphasizes the role WGU Ohio plays as part of the full array of higher education offerings in the state. As a nonprofit, accredited institution founded 22 years ago by state governors, our North Star is serving both students and employers. We gladly partner with those who share that mission.

With the new state budget, Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and members of the Ohio General Assembly have demonstrated their shared commitment to ensuring that adult learners have multiple innovative pathways to gain the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in rewarding careers. In a state where our economic strength has created a demand for skilled workers, the forward-thinking approach of policymakers is essential and commendable.

Our state’s leaders should be applauded for supporting collaboration in higher education. Maintaining WGU Ohio’s place in our state’s higher education community supports students, employers, our fellow higher education institutions and, ultimately, the state. Expanding knowledge is our mission, and the more organizations with which we can work, the more students and employers can benefit. The way forward for Ohio cannot be borne by a single approach or by a single institution. Together we lift Ohio.

The opportunities for job-seekers and businesses created by Ohio’s ongoing economic growth are exciting. We all want this to continue. At the same time, however, that growth has created a demand for workers with advanced skills that continues to exceed the supply, and that brings challenges. In fact, the state’s database of available jobs contains more than 150,000 current open jobs, 80,000 of which pay more than $50,000. Those are exciting numbers and represent real opportunity for Ohioans looking to get ahead. WGU Ohio and other innovative higher education institutions help make it happen.

There is no single solution for individuals, for employers, or for the state. There is, however, shared determination and burgeoning opportunity. While determination comes from within, opportunity is something we as Ohioans can all come together to create—opportunities to learn and opportunities to put our talents and energies to work to create new ideas and prosperity. That collaborative spirit is a strength that sets Ohio apart and we celebrate the fact that it is reinforced again in our state’s new budget.

By Dr. Rebecca L. Watts is the chancellor of Western Governors University

By Dr. Rebecca L. Watts is the chancellor of Western Governors University