College degrees attract jobs (and fuel our economy)

Rick Kurtz

The job market is changing rapidly — providing new opportunities as well as challenges in Ohio.

Studies show that by the year 2025, two-thirds of jobs in Ohio will require some sort of education beyond high school — whether in the form of a certificate, two-year associate degree, four-year bachelor’s degree or an advanced degree. According to Ohio Means Jobs, 62 percent of current “in-demand” jobs in Ohio require certificates or above. The big problem is that currently, only 44 percent of working age Ohioans have a certificate or above, which is several points below the nation’s overall degree attainment rate of 47 percent.

That creates a “talent gap” that affects our state’s ability to attract and retain jobs — and working adults’ ability to launch or advance their careers.

In response to this gap, Ohio has formally adopted Ohio Attainment Goal 2025, striving for 65 percent of working-age Ohioans to have a degree, certificate or other postsecondary workforce credential of value in the workplace by 2025.

Maintaining a high-quality public higher education system is vital in reaching this goal. A college degree provides opportunity, competitive advantage and economic prosperity — for individuals, businesses and the state. Public universities, like Shawnee State, will produce the majority of skilled workers Ohio must have to meet workforce demands.

We’re up to the challenge — and it appears our community is behind us. A recent statewide public opinion poll found that 89 percent of Ohioans want their children and grandchildren to go to college; 87 percent agree that Ohio should have a top-rate university system; and 85 percent agree that a four-year degree from a public university in Ohio prepares students for a good job in today’s economy.

This month, Ohio’s 14 public universities, including Shawnee State, are launching a communication campaign called Forward Ohio. The purpose is to raise public awareness of the value of public higher education — and especially, the many ways our universities are helping to address the talent gap and moving Ohio forward.

The value of a college education in Ohio can be expressed in terms of five high-impact commitments:

1. We help Ohioans prosper. A college degree will help you land your first career opportunity, advance in your current career or transition to a new one. By dramatically improving your ability to earn a good living ($1 million or more over your lifetime), an investment in higher education is still the best path to achieving the American Dream.

2. We develop Ohio’s workforce. Communities with more-educated workforces tend to be healthier, wealthier and better able to compete in today’s global economy. States with more-educated workforces are better positioned to attract business investment and job creation.

3. We spur Ohio’s economy. University research, technology transfer and commercialization activities, along with a culture of entrepreneurship on university campuses, help drive Ohio’s innovation economy. Universities have ramped up these efforts to ensure Ohio remains a center for private and federal investment.

4. We tackle society’s toughest issues. Basic university research improves our lives and the world. It provides tremendous experiential learning opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students, training the next generation of researchers who will make future contributions that will improve public health, the economy and our communities, nation and the world.

5. We work to keep college affordable. Our universities are committed to keeping college within financial reach. Shawnee State’s tuition is among the lowest in Ohio, making college possible for more families. Ohio is a national leader in containing college costs and we’re adopting new measures and programs to reduce student debt, increase degree completion and quicken the time it takes to earn a degree.

The presidents of Ohio’s public universities invite you to visit the campaign website, You’ll find facts and figures that may surprise you, as well as student stories of personal growth, invention, creativity and collaboration that will inspire you.

Ohio’s talent gap is real, substantial and threatening. Look to Ohio’s public universities and Shawnee State University for a committed partner in achieving Ohio Attainment Goal 2025 and closing Ohio’s talent gap by making college possible.

Rick Kurtz

Dr. Rick Kurtz is president of Shawnee State University.

Dr. Rick Kurtz is president of Shawnee State University.