Testimony to the Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee

The following testimony was delivered on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, before the Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee.


Chair Cirino, Vice Chair Rulli, Ranking Member Ingram – who I know is not present but she may come a little bit later – and the members of the Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee: My name is Ted Carter, and I have the honor of serving as the 17th president of The Ohio State University.

It is indeed a privilege to appear before you to discuss the important investments the state of Ohio makes in higher education and our university – and, in return, how Ohio State takes seriously the responsibility of making good on those investments for the benefit of students and the communities in which we all live, work and serve.

We are a land-grant, public research state university with a student body of more than 65,000 –one of the largest institutions of higher education not only in the United States, but in the world.

The university has campuses in Columbus, Lima, Mansfield, Marion, Newark, and the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Wooster campus – an important component of our statewide research enterprise and home to the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center and our Agricultural Technical Institute. We are home to 15 colleges; as well as 200 majors and 300 master’s, doctoral and professional degree programs. We cover 15,000 acres. We are 40,000 full-time employees, including student employees. We have extension offices that serve Ohioans in every part of the state. Ohio State students, alumni, patients, employees and facilities can be found in each of Ohio’s 88 counties.

Complementing and enhancing these programs are a nearly $1.45 billion global research enterprise, the nationally recognized Wexner Medical Center with inpatient and outpatient care throughout central Ohio, and a leading athletics program with 36 Division I sports programs and more than 1,000 student-athletes.

Ohio State is a large, complex organization that is a joy to lead. 

My wife, Lynda, and I came to Ohio State in January of this year for the start of the spring semester. We came from the University of Nebraska System, where I served as president. Prior to that role, I served as superintendent, or president, of the United States Naval Academy, and as president of the U.S. Naval War College. 

Overall, my career in the Navy spanned 38 years in uniform; 6,300 hours in tactical jet-fighter aircraft; 125 combat missions in five different combat zones; and, perhaps most germane to my testimony today, a continuous commitment to teaching and learning. I believe both are lifelong pursuits and the common ground between my service in the military and my career in higher education.

A significant part of what attracted me to Ohio State is embodied in the university motto of “Education for Citizenship.” That is, our university’s fundamental identity as a public, land-grant institution dedicated to service for the greater good. The education we provide, the discoveries made by our faculty, and our partnerships with businesses and organizations are always in service to something bigger than us. Specifically, it is our foundational mission to extend higher education broadly to all Ohioans – and to bring greater investment in intellectual capital and economic development to Ohio. These ideas are the basis not only for what Ohio State has become, but also for what it must continue to be: a university with the primary purpose to serve.

Since I began my tenure at Ohio State, my focus has been to listen, learn and to earn trust. I consider this testimony today to be part of that important work, and I appreciate the opportunity to speak with you today.

Investment in Ohio State and Higher Education

The university and state are inextricably linked; investing in one is an investment in the other. In fact, Ohio State as we know it today exists because of such an investment.

Ohio State is the result of the Morrill Act, signed by President Lincoln in 1862. First called the Ohio Agricultural and Mechanical College, we were then founded by the Ohio General Assembly with the passage of the Canon Act just eight years later in 1870. And we were located first in Columbus because the residents of Franklin County rallied together to raise funds to purchase Neil Farm and build our first facilities. Our first class in 1873 totaled 24 students. Since that time, Ohio State has grown into one of the nation’s leading learning, teaching and research engines, currently ranked No. 17 among public universities nationally. As I said, we are a large and complex organization – and I know from experience that can present challenges to maximum efficiency and efficacy – but the very scale on which Ohio State operates also presents opportunities to make an impact in a way few other institutions can. 

That scope and scale exceed all national peers in terms of offering comprehensive services related to academics, health care, athletics and more. To provide a picture of all that Ohio State offers in terms of services and resources compared to R1 research universities and other Big Ten Conference schools, Ohio State is the only university that offers the full range of health sciences colleges, including a medical college and colleges of nursing, optometry, veterinary medicine, dentistry, public health and pharmacy. This range is noteworthy as these specialized professional schools require smaller class sizes with higher cost of instruction and equipment, but they are vital to fulfilling the university’s land-grant mission and providing the highly trained and educated health professionals needed to serve Ohio. 

Additionally, and as I’m sure you know, the Ohio General Assembly selected Ohio State and four other state universities to establish academic centers for teaching and researching the foundation and growth of the American constitutional order and society. At Ohio State, the Salmon P. Chase Center for Civics, Culture, and Society will be an independent academic center physically housed in the John Glenn College of Public Affairs. In November, Ohio State’s Board of Trustees appointed the academic council that is conducting the national search for an executive director for the center. 

In terms of economic impact, Ohio State is the largest employer in central Ohio. More broadly, the university’s most recent economic impact report, analyzing 2019 data and released in September 2022, shows Ohio State generated $663.1 million generated in tax revenue to state and local governments. The university’s annual economic impact for the state of Ohio [was] estimated at $19.6 billion. Importantly, Ohio State adds gravitational pull to the region. People go to school here, and they overwhelmingly tend to stay to start their careers. More than 70% of our undergraduates who planned to enter the workforce stayed in the state of Ohio. At the same time, 66% of Ohio State graduate and PhD students also stayed in Ohio. When you consider that roughly 30% of our students are from out of state, these percentages are exceptional.

Keeping our graduates in Ohio is more important than ever. Nationally, fewer students are graduating from high school, and competition for these students is fierce. Attracting and retaining talent in Ohio and to Ohio – while anticipating the most in-demand fields and jobs in partnership with state and industry leaders is vital.

Industry partnerships

A significant part of the university’s approach to advancing workforce development is through partnerships with industry. I will mention just a few among hundreds of examples taking place throughout our colleges and units.

Ohio State has had a formalized partnership with Honda. It’s lasted for more than 20 years, resulting in hundreds of research projects as well as internships, co-op experiences and full-time, post-graduation positions for Ohio State students. Last year, Ohio State and Honda announced a partnership with the State of Ohio, JobsOhio and Schaeffler Americas to establish a 25,000-square-foot battery cell research center. The lab will accelerate the domestic development of battery cell materials and manufacturing technologies while providing an experiential learning setting for advanced battery technology workforce development. 

Another example is Amgen, one of the largest pharmaceutical companies in the country. It is bringing its production work to Ohio, and the company’s talent strategy for Ohio focuses on working with Ohio State to provide learning opportunities for students and further build its workforce pipeline. 

Ohio State is working closely with Intel, two- and four-year institutions, and state economic development officials to develop curriculum, launch new degree and certificate job training programs, and advance research programs that will support the semiconductor industry’s workforce and research needs. Our College of Engineering launched two new minors and eight new certificates, at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, in semiconductor devices and semiconductor fabrication technology. We offer a Bachelor of Science in Engineering Technology exclusively at our regional campuses. In 2022, Ohio State launched the Midwest Semiconductor Network to support the development of semiconductor nanofabrication facilities in the Midwest and the broader, national efforts to promote U.S. leadership in semiconductors and microelectronics. The network comprises 31 colleges and universities in five states across the Midwest.

We are also focused on bringing together our research scientists with industry partners and students to tackle society’s biggest challenges through the Carmenton innovation district. When fully built, Carmenton will cover more than 350 acres that bring together entrepreneurial, corporate, academic and health care communities in collaborative spaces and programs. Our deepest appreciation goes to the city of Columbus and JobsOhio for their investments.

Many of these partnerships are rooted in Ohio State’s research engine – ranked No. 6 in the country in industry-sponsored research, totaling $155.2 million in FY23. And that’s up 9% from FY22. Ohio State’s research and development expenditures of $1.45 billion in FY23 represent a 6% increase over FY22. Our research activity now surpasses the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and Harvard University.

It isn’t just about the numbers. It’s about what our research is doing. It’s about what Ohio State’s research means to changing the lives of Ohioans, to saving lives of Ohioans, and for people across our country and around the world.

Health care and training

Ohio State’s commitment to our communities is further evident in the clinical care and health care training that the Wexner Medical Center provides throughout the state. As mentioned previously, no other major university has seven health sciences colleges on one campus like Ohio State does in Columbus – meaning we can provide greater outreach across the state. Ours is the only veterinary teaching hospital in a three-state area – and we are No. 3 among veterinary colleges ranked by the American Veterinary Medical Association Council on Education. Our state-supported dental school serves Ohioans at more than 40 extramural sites, and through our pediatric mobile dental clinic that travels to central Ohio schools to provide care.

Everywhere I go throughout the state, I hear inspiring stories and expressions of gratitude from people for the care and compassion they and their families received through the university’s medical enterprise. To demonstrate this reach more empirically, the Wexner Medical Center in 2023 cared for more than 427,000 distinct patients with nearly 4.3 million encounters from across each of the 88 counties in Ohio combined — including 291 distinct patients with 2,345 encounters in Adams County, 736 distinct patients with 9,328 encounters in Wyandot County and more than 216,000 distinct patients and 2.3 million encounters in Franklin County. The university proudly supports more than 100 medical facility locations that serve as major referral centers for patients throughout Ohio and the Midwest. We are also nearing completion of the new Wexner Medical Center Inpatient Hospital Tower. Once opened and admitting patients, it will be Ohio’s standard-bearer for clinical training and care, bringing 824 private, adult patient rooms – nearly doubling the bed capacity between the existing Rhodes and Doan halls. 

Teaching and learning at the forefront of modern technologies are critical to the future of health care. Last year, Ohio State awarded 1,784 doctorates and professional degrees. That makes us one of the top producers of these graduates in the nation. To a significant degree, Ohio State is feeding the nation’s pipeline of health care providers.

Our impact is being felt in Ohio. For example, 76% of all Ohio State medical students are residents of Ohio. At this year’s Match Day, 35% of our medical students matched to institutions in the state. And I’m proud to note that 80% of our undergraduate and graduate enrollment in nursing – one of the top programs in the country – is made up of in-state students. 

Capital Budget Request

Ohio State’s focus remains on addressing deferred maintenance.

As one of the largest universities in the country, Ohio State has more than 39 million gross square feet of building space, with a current replacement value of approximately $18 billion, and total operating expenses of $7.9 billion. In addition to our size, approximately 48% of Ohio State’s buildings are at least 50 years old or older – not uncommon across most campuses in the nation.

For the FY25-26 biennium, Ohio State submitted requests totaling roughly $76.5 million in deferred maintenance projects.

This funding includes $64.95 million for 10 bundled renewal and renovation projects on the Columbus campus affecting roughly 50 buildings. These funds will be used for roof, HVAC, elevator, fire system, electrical and other infrastructure renovations. A partial demolition of Evans Laboratory is also included in the request. The Lima, Mansfield, Marion and Newark regional campuses are each slated to receive $1.7 million for prioritized renovation projects on each campus. The College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences Wooster campus would receive $6 million for renovations to its Fisher Auditorium.

The resources we are seeking from the state are an important piece of our overall plan to keep pace with our deferred maintenance needs. The investment of state capital dollars for these projects will be leveraged by other funding sources, maximizing the impact to the university’s deferred maintenance liability. Investments in critical building system projects as proposed will ensure that students have access to safe and appropriate spaces.

Challenges and Opportunities

I want to talk a little bit about higher education headwinds.

While Ohio State is a great university in a strong fiscal position, we face several of the same headwinds experienced by institutions of higher education across the country. The issue of free speech and campus protests is one that has effectively shut down some of our nation’s universities. At Ohio State, we have experienced our share of large-scale protests while keeping our campuses open for students to learn, faculty to teach and research, and staff [to] provide critical educational support. 

I have been clear with our community, and I will be equally clear with you today: I value and welcome free speech. As you know, I wore the cloth of our nation as a Naval officer for 38 years to support and defend these rights. What has occurred on our campuses, including the arrest of some students, faculty, and individuals unaffiliated with Ohio State, was not about limiting free speech. It was an intentional violation of university space rules that exist so that teaching, learning, research, service and patient care can occur without interruption. As a public university, demonstrations, protests and disagreement regularly occur on our campuses – so much so that we have trained staff and public safety professional onsite for student demonstrations for safety and support everyone’s right to engage in these activities. We have been abundantly clear in a multitude of communications that Ohio State has and will enforce the law and university policy. 

As I have said, we are living through a time of great challenge and uncertainty around the world. This is seen across our nation and throughout the higher education landscape. As we navigate these headwinds, Ohio State will remain a place where safety will not be compromised. We will remain focused on creating an environment in which respect, civility and compassion are at the forefront while continuing our longstanding commitment to the First Amendment. This has been my experience over my four decades in higher education and military service, and it’s my expectation today. 

Declining faith in the value of higher education

Another strong headwind we face is the public declining faith in the value of higher education.

The facts show that a college education remains tremendously important. The wage gap between college and high school graduates has been widening for many years now, and it continues to widen. I also understand that student debt is a massive problem in this country. If the success of our students is our North Star – and it is – then we must be able to provide the preparation and training critical to workforce development at a cost that will not impede their opportunities or their career development. 

I am proud to say we are making progress in terms of affordability and access. Because of several university initiatives, donor support and the state’s commitment to the Ohio College Opportunity Grants and State Share of Instruction, we have seen debt for Ohio State students continue to fall. In the 2022-2023 academic year, 58% – let me say that again: 58% – of Ohio State’s bachelor’s degree recipients graduated with zero student loan debt. For the rest, the 42% who do leave with some debt, their debt has been reduced from $27,000 on average five years ago to less than $25,000 today. To put that on the national scale, our percentage of students who leave with no debt is 20% better than the U.S. average. And the average debt is well over $4,000 less than the national average — again, close to [a] 20% reduction.

Let’s talk about college costs. Between 2007-2022, U.S. public university tuition and fees increased over 85% to 85.3%, far surpassing CPI and Inflation of 38.8% during the same period. This is unacceptable. What people may not know is that, over the same 16-year period in Ohio, public university tuition and fees increased only 33.7%. Ohio State’s tuition and fees increased only 27.9%, more than 10% lower than the rate of inflation, and only a third as much as the national average. Further, since 2007, Ohio State’s undergraduate tuition and fees have increased at a slower rate than all but two other public universities in Ohio.

Last year at Ohio State, more than 9,500 students received merit-based scholarships; 48% of our undergraduate students receive federal grants, including Pell grants, and 70% of undergraduates receive institutional grants, with the average amount of grants, aid and scholarships students receive being at about $12,000. 

In short, Ohio State offers an exemplary education at a lower cost than the majority of our peers. In Ohio, we are the second most affordable of any school that has a selective admission process. If you look at peer institutions in the expanded Big Ten Conference, there are now 18 schools. Eleven of those schools are more expensive than Ohio State, putting our university in the top half for affordability.

Some additional efforts include: 

  • Ohio State has eliminated 70% of all course fees over the last several years. 
  • The Ohio State Tuition Guarantee, which freezes tuition and fees for four years for all in-state first-year Buckeyes and their families. 
  • In-state tuition to military families regardless of their place of residence.
  • Our regional campuses across the state offer a lower cost of attendance. 
  • We offer discounts on summer semester credit hours.

In FY24, we expect to distribute approximately $415 million in financial aid. Ohio State has launched an enrollment policies, connection and completion group to consider all the levers that impact a student’s ability to complete their degree in a timely manner. Should this work succeed, and we think it will, we should see our already high four-year graduation and completion rates rise.

Finally, at Ohio State, as many of you know, administrative and operational efficiencies have funded millions in student financial aid and have reduced student textbook costs by 75%. These efficiencies paid for $53.9 million in additional student aid.

In terms of access, our university is first and foremost an institution created for Ohioans. Most people are surprised when I tell them that, across all our campuses, roughly 73% of our undergraduates are natives of the Buckeye State. If you are an Ohio student with a high school diploma or a GED, you will be accepted to Ohio State. For some, that means they will have the chance to attend one of our superb regional campuses, where they can start and, if they so choose, finish their degree at a lower cost. For those who want to be in Columbus, our campus-change program allows any student in good academic standing on one of our regional campuses to switch to the Columbus campus after completing 30 credit hours.

Another important element: We also prioritize our pathway agreements with Ohio community colleges that provide students with an option to transfer credits efficiently and seamlessly to complete a bachelor’s degree in almost 80 fields. We have pathway agreements with Columbus State Community College, Central Ohio Technical College in Newark, North Central State College in Mansfield and Rhodes State College in Lima. The goal is to empower any student in Ohio to engage in higher education.

Diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI)

Finally, much has been debated nationally about diversity, equity and inclusion at colleges and universities. My philosophy on this is simple. I want Ohio State to value diversity of thought, protect freedom of expression and foster a welcoming environment for Ohioans from every community in this state. We have a diverse student, faculty and staff community from Ohio, all 49 other states and many countries who we also want to feel welcome here. 

I’ve tried to articulate the size and scope of Ohio State. This means that our programs to ensure student success, many of which would fall under our DEI spending – and I put that in quotations – are commensurate. 

As the leader of Ohio State, one of my obligations is to constantly review the programs and services we offer to make sure they are appropriately in alignment with our mission, the needs of our students, and our commitment to Ohio. 

More than half of the expenses can be attributed to:

  • Required spending for the Office of Institutional Equity, which includes spending for the Americans with Disabilities Act, Title IX and other compliance-related programs. Just to give a sense of scope, Ohio State has more than 7,000 students who are registered with our disability services unit and who receive academic accommodations for a wide variety of disabilities. We have seen an increase in students who need services in the past several years and expect this to continue to grow. 
  • Costs related to and funded by research grants, third-party gifts and student scholarships.
  • Expenses related to programming that supports retention, persistence and graduation for a number of student populations, including: first-generation students, parenting students, historically underrepresented students and students from rural Ohio and Appalachia.
  • Programs that benefit our students as well as the state of Ohio. Let me just give you some examples: a program that provides no-cost services to help individuals with disabilities continue to farm and another that provides culturally competent pediatric dental care in underserved areas of the state.

The overall spending is 0.37% of our budget, which is in line with our fellow [Inter-University Council] schools. We are in the process of reviewing our expenses, as we review all of our expenses at Ohio State, to make sure we are achieving the alignment we need as a university. Our focus is on the services and support we need to provide in order for our students to successfully graduate and enter the workforce. 

My commitment to you is that we will continue to serve students from all backgrounds and in all circumstances, whether urban or rural, first generation, parenting students, veterans and more. 


In closing, I want to thank you, Mr. Chairman and the members of this committee, for the opportunity to appear before you and testify today.

Conversations such as these are important. Our nation is in a divisive period. Even more so, the public has lost trust in large institutions of all kinds. They have lost trust in the government. They have lost trust in the medical community. They have lost trust in the pharmaceutical community. They have lost trust in religious communities. They have lost trust in even the military, which has historically been one of the most trusted organizations we’ve seen since the Vietnam War.

As I have said, higher education is included in this. One of the reasons I wanted to come to Ohio State is to be in a position to lead the conversation that helps to change these perceptions. I will submit to you, in the present, that only a few public land-grant universities of our stature can turn this conversation around. 

This university has changed tremendously over the course of its history, and we will have to continue evolving to meet the challenges that come next. Even if how we do our work changes, however, the mission that drives us will always be the same. 

Just as we were when we opened our doors, Ohio State is a university for all Ohioans and all people who want to come together to make a difference and lead.

I look forward to continuing to work with you, and I am happy to answer any questions you may have at this time.

Testimony as submitted

Read the president's testimony to the Ohio Senate Workforce and Higher Education Committee as it was submitted.

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