Ohio technical centers would be recognized as institutions of higher education under a change made to a workforce development bill March 7.
The House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee accepted a substitute version of HB166 (Reineke-Cupp), which had focused on various changes to Ohio’s workforce development system. Rep. Bill Reinke (R-Tiffin) told the committee that the substitute version of the bill contains new language that addresses Ohio technical centers, which he said provide labor market-driven post-secondary training to adults. He said they are the adult education component at career centers, with students often taking classes at night and on the weekends, and the centers are highly responsive in meeting the needs of employers.
Reineke said the bill still addresses the overriding subject of improving workforce development. The newest addition to the bill is needed because of the overall lack of clarity for Ohio technical centers, he said. Technical centers are not currently recognized as institutions of higher education under Ohio law, and Reineke said they discovered there are actually multiple different definitions for institutions of higher education in current law. Technical centers would identify as higher education institutes under the bill for purposes of making students eligible for certain education and grant programs.
Rep. Niraj Antani (R-Miamisburg) asked why the language was not a standalone bill, calling it “an odd procedural thing to do” when the bill was on its seventh hearing. Rep. Bob Cupp (R-Lima), a co-sponsor of the bill, said it is a matter of preference, but legally speaking it does address the same subject. He said they were seeking a method to try to get it done faster than a regular bill.
Asked about concerns from colleges about the new language, Reineke said those concerns are misdirected. He said the language only affects the ability of a student at a technical center to apply for certain scholarships like the Ohio College Opportunity Grant (OCOG). Committee Chair Rep. Mike Duffey (R-Worthington) said institutions can be sensitive to changes when a pool of money suddenly has more places to be divided.
The committee heard from witnesses representing the technical centers, including Bill Bussey of the Ohio Association of Career Technical Superintendents; Carrie Fife of the Pickaway-Ross Career and Technology Center; Anthony Huffman of the Washington County Career Center; Joyce Malainy of the Career Technology and Education Centers of Licking County; and Scott Naill of Upper Valley Career Center.