COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) — An ambitious bill promises investment in higher education to help tackle Ohio’s declining population and labor shortages.
On Monday, flanked by nine presidents of several of the state’s largest colleges and universities, State Rep. Jon Cross (R-Kenton) announced the GROW (Graduate and Retain Ohio’s Workforce) Act. He called it an investment in Ohio’s future economy.
“We’re not a fly state, we’re a ‘flight state. We’re a ‘stay here,’” Cross said.
He presented the GROW Act in 5 steps:
Codify Ohio Revised Code: The first step described by Cross was technical in nature. The bill would amend Ohio’s revised code to add the Chancellor of Higher Education, or an appointed representative, to the Ohio Governor’s Workforce Development Council.
Encourage 4-year degrees: Next, the legislation proposes to use the College Opportunity Scholarships to encourage students who earn associate degrees at community colleges to continue their education at a four-year college or university.
Commercial partnerships: Participating companies could be eligible for a 30% tax credit if they partner with colleges and universities to provide internships, co-op programs and apprenticeship opportunities.
Repayable loans for foreign students: International students pursuing studies in STEM fields, who achieve high grades in high school, could apply for a merit-based, 4-year, $25,000 loan. After graduation, up to 33% of the loan value would be forgiven if the student remained in Ohio. He/she could get 50% loan forgiveness after two years in the state and 100% loan forgiveness if three years remain. Cross proposed that 100 such annual loans be made, but said he would be willing to change the figure as the bill takes shape in the legislature.
Tax relief: Among the most ambitious provisions, the GROW Act would allow a graduate of any college or university in Ohio three years without state income tax if they remained in Ohio after graduation. of his degree. Cross graduates would apply for reimbursement annually.
University presidents hailed the bill, saying the combination of grants, loans, and opportunities for real-world experience could give Ohio higher education a competitive edge. This comes as a decades-long deindustrialization of the Midwest contributes to population decline in many parts of Ohio.
“The future of this country depends on innovation in exactly states like Ohio and the Midwest,” said Dr. Kristina Johnson, president of Ohio State University.
At the same time, the state estimates colleges and universities nationwide are losing 10 to 40 percent of their graduates to job opportunities outside of Ohio. The so-called “brain drain” phenomenon could aggravate the labor shortage that many employers are experiencing.
“It’s a big deal to educate the next part of the workforce. The next step is to get people…to go back to Ohio or move to Ohio,” the former member said. Congressman Steve Stivers, who is now president of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce.
Stivers and Cross said offering tax breaks and loan forgiveness to those who choose to stay in Ohio could make the state more attractive to new job seekers and therefore strengthen Ohio’s economy. .
“Where does the first dollar go when we come up with a budget of 70, 80, 90 billion dollars? Well, I think that should go straight into our education and into our future workforce,” Cross said.
The bill’s sponsor could not offer an estimate of the bill’s cost, but he suggested that the long-term economic benefits might outweigh its initial expense.
Cross said, “Quite frankly, it could cost Ohio. But like I said, it’s an investment.
The state representative hopes to see the GROW Act pass through the state house by December 2022 or be included in the state’s 2023 operating budget.