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Published: Tuesday, 8/12/2014

Owens exploring options as funding, enrollment decline

BY NOLAN ROSENKRANS
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Mike Bower, the new president of Owens Community College. Mike Bower, the new president of Owens Community College.
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Decreased state funding and a desire to keep tuition low has led Owens Community College to explore a potential levy, but there’s no timeline on that decision, Owens President Mike Bower said Monday during a state of the college address.

Mr. Bower emphasized the word “explore” when talking about a potential levy, and Board of Trustees Chairman Rich Rowe said after the speech that a levy is just one option. The college formed a committee earlier this year to explore ways to raise new revenue, and has hired a consulting firm to help it build a case for amending its charter, a necessary step for Owens to place a levy on the ballot.

Enrollment at Owens continues to decline, Mr. Bower said. In the fall of 2009, enrollment was 23,606. The college estimates fewer than 13,000 students will enroll this fall.

With state funding now tied to student performance, and not enrollment, Owens will need to improve its retention and completion rates or it will face further budget struggles.

Federal data that will be released shortly will likely show that about 30 percent of Owens students have defaulted on federal student loans, Mr. Bowers said. In recent years the school’s number of student loan defaults has been one of the highest among public schools in the United States.

Most defaults, Mr. Bowers said, are for students who perform poorly in school or drop out. That reality, and the state’s shift in how it funds higher education, means Owens must focus on helping students be successful, he said.

“We must continue to shift our mindset,” Mr. Bowers said.

But the college is committed to its Findlay campus, Mr. Bower said, dispelling unfounded talk that Owens had plans to shut that campus down. “We are not, and I say that in bold, we are not closing the Findlay area campus,” he said.

The college is considering student housing at the Perrysburg Township campus. That would have to be done by a third party, Mr. Bower said, because the college cannot build its own housing.

Owens administration plans to submit a smoking-tobacco ban to its board of trustees in December, Mr. Bower said.

He concluded his speech by hinting, “that something big, and made of red, and full of team spirit, is coming to the college this fall.” He declined to say more on what he meant.

Mr. Bower spoke to several hundred staff and students at the Center for Fine and Performing Arts Theatre on the Toledo area campus; more people may have planned to attend, but a torrential downpour preceded the speech.

Contact Nolan Rosenkrans at: nrosenkrans@theblade.com or 419-724-6086, or on Twitter @NolanRosenkrans.



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