Higher education officials want to incorporate about $405 million for facility projects at all 37 public institutions into the upcoming capital bill.

Several college and university presidents joined Gov. John Kasich in detailing recommendations of the Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission during a conference call with reporters.

The state’s public college and university presidents have spent the last several months collaborating on the construction recommendations for the proposal. 

If approved by the legislature, the bond-backed funding would be included in the biennial capital appropriations bill that’s expected to be introduced next month.

“Members of the commission put a great deal of hard work into creating a unified list of recommendations for the administration and the General Assembly to consider,” Board of Regents Chancellor John Carey told reporters. “For the second consecutive capital budget, the commission has developed an unselfish list of recommendations for how Ohio can best spend capital dollars to meet the true needs of the entire university system.

“Before we transitioned to this collaborative process, bureaucrats at the state relied on a formula-driven capital funding process that was not a strategic way to spend limited capital resources for higher education.”

The recommendations have the support of all 37 presidents leading public universities and colleges – all of which have projects on the recommendation list – as well as the University System of Ohio, Commission Co-chairman and Ohio University President Roderick McDavis said.

“The capital projects we recommend in our report will help us stay competitive and best serve the needs of the entire university system and our great state,” he said.

Gov. Kasich said he and the legislative leaders have taken a “hasty” look at the recommendations, but that what he saw there had him “almost getting really choked up” because the proposals put the students and the state before the institutions themselves.

“They have come up with recommendations that are unique,” he said. “There are some recommendations that actually involve shared services between, for example at Wright State, between the city and the Department of Transportation. This is unbelievable stuff.”

The governor’s comments were in reference to a proposal that would spend $1 million to construct a 3,000-ton salt storage structure on the edge of Wright State University campus to be shared with ODOT District 8 and the cities of Beavercreek and Fairborn.

He said he was “delighted” to give the higher education institutions a little more money than last cycle. In 2012, the state allocated $350 million to the school projects and spent $50 million on statewide higher education projects.

Commission Co-Chairman and Southern State Community College President Kevin Boys said, “We fully understand that these are recommendations that are made to the General Assembly and would just respectfully ask our friends in the House and the Senate to support the recommendations.”

Ohio State University again leads the pack with the largest amount of recommended funding, which primarily supports its new data analytics undergraduate degree. About $37.2 million is recommended for the renovation of Pomerence Hall and another $15.6 million for the renovation of Oxley hall.

“Employers and large companies are quickly looking for experts in the emerging field of data analytics to develop new business insights, new data driven product and new business applications,” Mr. McDavis said.

OSU interim President Joe Alutto said the project goal is to provide the space to accommodate the development of additional faculty in the subject area and for additional students.

“It also gives us an opportunity to renovate and really retain two of the iconic buildings on this campus and use them for a very different purpose than they were originally designed,” he said.

The report also recommends for OSU $6.3 million for roof repair and replacement and $5.2 million for HVAC repair and replacement, among other projects.

The bulk of the other projects similarly are for renovation or maintenance, Mr. McDavis said. About 85% of the projects impact existing space and 15% are new endeavors.

“We believe that, for instance, foremost we have to take care of the existing facilities and existing labs and existing spaces on our campuses,” he said. “The second priority was to look at those projects, those capital projects that focused on workforce development, or JobsOhio or things that would help economic development in Ohio.”

The OU president said the group started its work by gathering six-year capital project proposals that institutions had submitted to the Board of Regents. It then looked at the first two years of those proposals as a base line. The panel considered how much money institutions had received during the 2012 process and tried to ensure each received more this time.

Among other projects highlighted by the commission was Cleveland State University’s Center for Research and Innovation, which is proposed to receive $1.6 million.

“This project will create flexible, state-of-the-art, shared use facilities for physical science and engineering disciplines,” Mr. McDavis said.

Columbus State Community College seeks $10.5 million to expand its online course program that is also available to high school students. The funding would be used to increase network capacity, buy new hardware and software and make space modifications to allow for expansion in the number of students taking online classes.

Sinclair Community College is proposed to receive $4 million to renovate 28,000 square feet at the downtown Dayton campus to house the National Unmanned Aerial Systems Training and Certification Center. The center would allow for the consolidation and integration of academic and workforce development initiatives in aviation and UAS, according to the report.

About $2 million is proposed for Lorain County Community College’s smart center, which “will be the only resource in the Midwest for testing and packaging to support the sensor technologies,” Mr. McDavis said. It supports the processes between R&D and market entry, which represent 70% of the total cost of commercializing technology.

The University of Toledo, Northwest Community College, and Terra State Community College meanwhile plan to create with $2 million a workplace development center focused on the plastics industry. The program would allow students to work from a certificate to an associate’s degree to a bachelor’s degree on one campus.

“There are approximately 6 million plastic manufacturers in Ohio with a large percentage of these companies located in northwest Ohio,” Mr. McDavis said.

Smaller colleges meanwhile could benefit from the proposed creation of a $16 million pool that would provide funding to projects that are typically too large for the capital bill process, co-chairman and Southern State Community College President Kevin Boys said.

“The commission envisions a process that would be administered through the chancellor’s office and each funded project would require some sort of local match by the college to leverage the use of these state funds,” he said.

House Speaker, Bill Batchelder (R-Medina) said during the conference call that the proposals would produce “an outstanding result for our students.”

Senate President, Keith Faber (R-Celina), meanwhile, said the proposals were a good move going forward.

“We have to collaborate and cooperate if we’re going to be successful. We can’t keep duplicating and everyone worrying about their own turf,” he said. “Let’s keep finding efficiencies and ways to be more effective.”

Ohio Association of Community Colleges Interim President Karen Rafinski said her group supports the recommendations.

“The OACC believes that the commission’s recommendations promote smart and strategic investments in public higher education infrastructure,” she said in a statement. “As such, the OACC respectfully encourages state leaders and legislators to support the recommendations and include them in the upcoming capital bill.

“The commission’s recommendations, which are supported by the leaders of every public campus in Ohio, represent the best thinking in investments that position the Buckeye State as a leader in quality higher education and workforce development now and into the future.”

Mr. Alutto also praised the collaborative process.

“On behalf of Ohio State, I am proud to have joined other higher education leaders across the state in this truly collaborative budget process,” he said in a release. “The commission’s focus was to prioritize programs and initiatives that would meet the long-term needs of all Ohioans through job creation and economic development. I am grateful to Gov. Kasich for this opportunity and to my higher education colleagues for their insights in helping to chart a course for Ohio’s future.”