Deadline Now: Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro
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Deadline Now: Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro

Ohio Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro

August 24, 2012 at 8:30 p.m.

Jim Petro was appointed chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents in March 2011. Chancellor Petro leads the University System of Ohio, which is one of the largest comprehensive systems of public higher education in the nation. The University System of Ohio bears the primary responsibility for raising Ohioans' educational attainment.

Petro has previously served as Attorney General of Ohio and as Ohio Auditor of State. Prior to being elected to statewide office, Jim served as a state representative, Cuyahoga County Commissioner, and Rocky River City Councilman and Director of Law.

Mr. Petro and his wife, Nancy, are co-authors of the book False Justice: Eight Myths That Convict the Innocent.

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Here are Jack Lessenberry's Final Thoughts for this edition of "Deadline Now:"

I think I know what higher education in this country needs right now.  We need an enemy who is seriously threatening to overtake us in science, weaponry or culture, or preferably all three.

If it seemed clear that our only hope for national survival was a more highly educated workforce, we’d be willing to appropriate the tax dollars necessary to educate our young people.

I know that, because this has happened before. We called it, the Cold War.  Following World War Two, millions of young men wanted educations, better lives and careers, and Congress  passed the famous G-I Bill to help them get them.

At the same time, we had a huge national incentive to support education. We were locked in an ideological and, potentially, military struggle with the Soviet Union.  Both countries and systems needed more scientists, but also more teachers and experts of any kind. Our nation’s interest in higher education intensified when the U-S-S-R exploded its first atom bomb.

When Moscow beat Washington in the race to put the first satellite in space, our national wallet really opened up. Well, we eventually won the space race, and then the Cold War. The Soviet Union disappeared, and there are those who thought that was the end of our need to worry.

Yet today, China is the fastest-growing economy in the world. Toledoans never used to need to worry about having to graduate from college to make a decent living; there were always great paying jobs on the assembly lines.

Well, those days are over, forever. The era when a man could count on earning a middle-class income with nothing but a high school degree is gone. But so is the era when college was easily affordable to working-class and middle-class young people.

Once, you could work all summer at a factory job and make almost enough to cover your expenses for the coming school year. Now, that’s no longer possible -- and today’s students are worried about accumulating tens of thousands in college loans, especially when there is no guarantee that they will be able to find a job that enables them to pay them back in anything like a timely manner.

This has a lot of us rightly worried. We need a way for young people today to get the higher education they need, and we need them to have.

If we fail to do so, we’ll be writing a prescription for economic stagnation and perhaps, social upheaval. It just may be that money spent on higher education today could be the biggest bargain our society could ever get.