(Columbus, Ohio) – The Ohio Federation of Teachers calls on Ohio lawmakers to improve the state’s economic future by ending a long history of insufficient funding for higher education.

Enrollment at Ohio’s colleges and universities has increased over the last five years while state funding has declined. Between 1999 and 2003 the state cut more than $300 million dollars from the Board of Regent’s budget. During this period, state support dropped by about $1,600 per student and although tuition increased by an average of $1,300 per student, tuition hikes have not made up for all of the loss of state funding.

Ohio ranks 40th in the nation when it comes to state support for higher education. Only 10 states provide fewer dollars for state colleges and universities.

Funding cuts coupled with an enrollment increase of 17 percent (more than 50,000 students) and inflation at about 15 percent during that time have made it difficult for Ohio’s colleges and universities to offer the necessary quality and diverse programming.

“Increasing financial support for higher education will improve the state’s health and viability for years to come,” said Tom Mooney, president of the Ohio Federation of Teachers. “Ohio can no longer fail to invest in higher education and expect to be an economic and technology leader.”

Mooney will testify before the House Finance and Appropriations Committee Wednesday March 16. The committee is scheduled to convene at 9 a.m. in Room 313 at the Ohio Statehouse.

By under-funding higher education, Ohio has pushed colleges and universities to dramatically raise tuition, making it more and more unaffordable for potential students to attend college.

Several colleges and universities have had to raise tuition recently, despite Gov. Bob Taft’s plea to freeze tuition hikes. Some colleges and universities have raised tuition this year by 9 percent or more.

“Ohioans deserve the opportunity to earn a quality, affordable college education. The better educated they are, the better Ohioans can provide for their families,” Mooney said. “The more education they earn, the better Ohioans are suited to excel in the kinds of jobs we need to stabilize and boost the state’s economy.”

Lawmakers are undercutting the ability of this state to create a well-trained workforce that will help corporations play a bigger role in Ohio’s economic recovery. Creating a well-trained workforce will draw more businesses to Ohio, create more jobs and generate more business and income tax revenue for the state, Mooney said.