Talking 419- Randy Gardner, Ohio Dept. of Higher Education

(upbeat music) (electronic whoosh) (dings) – Hello, and welcome
to Talking 419. I’m Steve Kendall. The Ohio Department of Higher
Education is a cabinet level agency for the governor
for the State of Ohio. It oversees higher education
for the entire state. And for this debut
edition of Talking 419, we’re joined by the
agency’s 10th chancellor. He’s a familiar name and face
to those in northwestern Ohio. He was a state legislator
for a long time. He now is, of course,
famous across the state. We introduce Randy Gardner,
the 10th chancellor of the Ohio Department
of Higher Education. Thank you so much
for joining us here. A familiar face, a
friend of the station, and a great supporter of
Bowling Green State University as well, so we appreciate that. – Great to be with you
on what I understand is the inaugural
program of 419 Talking. – Exactly. – How about that? (chuckles)
– Yeah, yeah. Now, as I mentioned there,
you were state legislator for a number of years,
quite a few years, and the transition you
made, being a senator and a representative
for all those years, now you’re sort of
sitting a little bit on the other side of the table. So, talk about the move
that you had to make here. Because that had to be
a, you’d been elected. Took a little bit of
a decision to say, “I’m representing constituents. “Now I’m representing
this entire state agency, “and basically, every
student, every faculty member, “anyone who has anything to do “with higher education
across the state.” So, talk about that
mindset a little bit. – Yeah, I’d be glad to. Actually, 12,106 days. If somebody wants
a trivia question that nobody else in
Ohio cares about, that’s how many days I was a
member of the House and Senate. So, 33 years, two months. It was just a fantastic
experience and privilege to be able to serve in
the state legislature. So, I knew the day
would come some day, although some people
were probably wondering, “Is the day ever going to come “when Gardner’s not in
the state legislature?” And then when it happened,
it happened so quickly. I really didn’t anticipate
being chosen as chancellor. All of a sudden, on a Wednesday
afternoon, on January 9th, I received a phone call
from the governor’s people, and they said they were
gonna make the appointment. And the very next morning,
10 o’clock in the morning, the governor was gonna make
the announcement state wide. And then five days
later I’m sworn in. So I had that, the transition
just happened so quickly. And I decided to do so
for a couple reasons. Number one, I probably
had just two years left in my Senate term, and
probably would not run again for the House of
Representatives, likely not. I thought I’d done, I worked pretty hard
to try to accomplish a number of things, and while I still had a
lot of passion to serve, this governor, Mike
DeWine, is the most engaged state wide elected official
I’ve worked with in 34 years. I have emails at 5:35 a.m. and text messages
at 11 o’clock p.m., to share, or to basically confirm, that he’s one who listens, and he wants to act
with a sense of urgency. Those are the two themes
that he really embedded in the cabinet, on our
very first cabinet meeting. So I was excited to accept it. I wasn’t certain that
it would be necessarily the career move that I
really wanted to make, because how would
you know for sure? But there has not been one day
in the last nine months plus, that I haven’t been
glad that I did. And there’s new things to learn, there’s new people to
meet and work with. I have been on 72 campuses
around the state already. I’ve always believed
you can’t do these jobs sitting in an
office in Columbus. So I’ve learned a lot
by being on campuses, and so it’s just a
great experience. But one of the key benefits, I still live in Bowling Green, Sandy and I live
in Bowling Green, children live in Bowling Green, and it has given me more
opportunity on the weekends to spend a little
more time at home versus at least driving
from Archbold, to Sylvania, to Bowling Green, to Vermilion,
back to Port Clinton, and to North Baltimore,
and back home. You know, those are
the kinds of days I had in the state Senate. Now, it’s a lot of traveling
around the state, 72 campuses. But it’s a different
type of schedule in terms of the weekend. And the weeks, a lot
of time in Columbus, a lot of time around the state, but the transition’s
been a good one. It’s different when you
officially represent, or at least work
for, one person. Governor DeWine,
if he so chooses, can replace the chancellor
any day he prefers. In fact, when I got the job,
I’ll just tell one quick story. I got the job, I
told my oldest son that I was going
to be chancellor. He said, “Chancellor?” – So, what is that? What’s that about? – Well, he said–
– How long? (chuckles) – “How long is that term?” And I said, “It
could be a week.” – It could be an hour! – He goes, “You
signed up for that?” And I said, “Yup,
I signed that.” So, I kind of explained that you serve at the
pleasure of the governor. And, so I hope, it’s already
been more than a week, it’s been nine months or so.
– (laughs) – But, working for this
governor and trying to tackle some of the issues in workforce
preparation and training as well as traditional
colleges and universities, what they bring to the
table in the state, is just a great opportunity. So, I’m glad I’m
doing what I did, but I will always say this. I would never have been
given an opportunity if the people in Wood County and other counties
in Northwest Ohio, hadn’t given me the
opportunity to serve in the state legislature first
and have that kind of career. So, it all starts with people in this
area of the state that honored me with their
votes for all these years, so. I almost always find the need
and the want to say those things because you never take
those experiences for granted. – Sure, well, and the
governor, by selecting you, you had always been
in the legislature an advocate for
higher education, so, that of course, I think played
into the decision as well. He knew he was getting somebody
who had a foot in there and his heart was in it too, someone who didn’t just treat
it as another particular initiative that
happened to come along. You were a strong advocate
for higher education all those years.
– An advocate, and someone who
knew the governor in one capacity or
another since 1990, Mike DeWine. So, we think pretty much we
knew what we were getting when I stepped into that job–
– Yeah, looked at each other. – And he knew. So, it’s been a great
experience so far and I’m excited to do it. – Now, as you’ve
traveled around the state and visited these campuses, is there anything that you found
out that you didn’t expect? That surprised you when you
maybe stopped at Baldwin Wallace or you stopped at
Ohio University, anything that you
were surprised by? – You know, not necessarily
surprised, but encouraged. Sure, I’ve learned new things. Some of the things like
in the health care space. Some of the new
technologies and labs and some of the actually
funding that we’ve provided to universities and community
colleges throughout the state to assist them in this endeavor. But I really believe
that higher education is more affordable
than some people think. I met with some high school
students this morning and talked to them about, make sure that if
someone tells you it’s not affordable,
take another look, ask more questions,
go on the website, look at financial aid,
look at scholarships, academic and financial
scholarships, all kinds of things that
the institution itself, whether it’s BGSU or an
independent university, or a community college
or a training center or trades program. All kinds of
opportunities in Ohio. And often times, we have fewer high
school graduates coming from high school
now into a college age. And because of that
it’s more competitive. And these universities
and colleges want you to be
students of theirs. So, make your case and strive to, if that’s what’s right for you, there’s probably an
affordable way to get there. And so I encourage
people to turn their head if they think that
there’s a path forward. Take a good hard
look at it because, between need based scholarships
and other institutional aid, we have caps on
tuition in Ohio now, we actually had the slowest
rate of growth in tuition in the country in
the last 10 years. A lot of people
don’t realize that. So, we’re doing
as much as we can and perhaps we’ll
strive to do even more to make education affordable. So, I encourage
people to do that. – Okay, when we come back
lets talk a little bit about, one of the programs is
College Credit Plus, which of course allows
high school students, and actually I guess, in some
cases, junior high students, to start to take
college classes. So, let’s talk a little bit
about some of those initiatives that gets people into
the college setting or the higher education
setting maybe a little faster than traditionally we
would have thought. We’ll be back in just a
moment with Randy Gardner, the chancellor of the Ohio
Department of Higher Education, here on Talking 419. Thank you for staying with
us here on Talking 419. Our guest is Randy Gardner,
the chancellor of the Ohio Department of Higher Education. One of the things, and
one of the opportunities, the challenges, the state has
tried to make a comprehensive effort to connect pre-K through
12 with higher education. And some of those programs
are already in place. But, talk a little about
that whole package of things. Some of them predate
Governor DeWine, but he’s of course heavily
involved in making sure that continues and grows
as an opportunity
for students in Ohio. – Well, there’s no
question that the phrase, “life long learning”
starts of course very early in one’s life
and we wanna continue. We actually have 1.5 million
Ohioans who are adults who have some college
but not a degree. Which is just a stunning number. And so, because of our economy, because the fewer number
of high school graduates, to really support Ohio’s
economy and Ohio’s workforce we need to bring back adults
who have gone to college and stopped out or
dropped out at some point, and encourage them
to get their degree. They can be a little stronger
participant in the workforce if they had that credential,
certificate or degree. So, having said that, we
also look at making sure that young people, those in
high school for example, make sure they know about
the opportunity they have to get college credit before
they leave high school. It’s something called
College Credit Plus, that about 12 percent of
our public school students participate in around the state. Over the last three years,
416.5 million dollars in college savings
has been generated by the College
Credit Plus program where a student can take a
credit on a high school campus or university campus and
simultaneously receive credit for both their high school
coursework and a college credit. So, that’s going
on in the state. There are a number of
universities and colleges that do a really fine
job in working with that. And high schools, it varies
from high school to high school but at least we provide
the opportunity. I had someone ask me
the question last week, “Why should we rush them? “Why should we push them?” And my answer is, we
shouldn’t push them. We should provide opportunity. Education is not about telling
people what they should know and when they should know it. It’s about encouraging them,
offering opportunity for them. If they want to go
faster and further, and it makes sense, if it’s
accredited, if there’s quality, there’s appropriate
academic rigor, we should provide those
opportunities for students. And yes, they can reduce
their overall cost to a college degree if they
participate in the program. But, it should be up to
the student and the family to make that decision. But at the end of the day, we are strengthening
that program, we are building on that. There are a number of other
things that we have done in terms of under the
umbrella of affordability. Choose Ohio First is a STEM
related program in Ohio. That went from 16 million
in fiscal year 19. In 2 years it’ll be
40 million in Ohio. So more opportunity for
students in the STEM fields, science, technology,
mathematics, medicine. And also computer science, a new emphasis on
computer science in the Choose Ohio First
scholarship program. Up to $7,900 for
students per year to support their education
in the STEM fields. So, that’s another strong program that we offer
at the state level. Another one is called OCOG, the Ohio College
Opportunity Grant. It’s need based financial aid. And students on this campus, at Bowling Green
State University and throughout the state,
are benefiting from that, those that meet the eligibility, the need based financial
qualifications of that program. It was the largest
year to year increase in the Ohio College Opportunity
Grant in the last 12 years. Governor DeWine strongly
believes that affordability and access are still
very important in Ohio, and so he’s supported
that program. So, there are just a
variety of things that as the chancellor I get to
be involved in encouraging, advocating, helping right
budgets, in these areas. And it’s exciting. – They want helping people be
aware that those exist, too. Because a lot of those
programs, you know, you look at the
department’s website, it is incredibly comprehensive,
lots of information there, but getting people
to know to go there, to look at it,
that sort of thing. – One thing if I can
interject, FAFSA. The FAFSA program,
the federal program, the free application
for financial aid. 39 percent of Ohioans who are
eligible for financial aid don’t complete the FAFSA. And so, if anybody’s
watching this program, and I know it’s complicated
and I know it’s time consuming and cumbersome, but sometimes
you’re not even eligible for academic scholarships
if you don’t complete that, let alone the need
based financial aid. We leave, I think the estimate
is now 72 million dollars, on the table in Ohio,
students leave on the table, in financial support, by
not completing the FAFSA. So, we are 15th in the
state in completion, so we’re in the upper half, but we’re still not as
strong as we can be, so we encourage more students
to complete that form so that they can be
potentially eligible for thousands of dollars in
additional financial aid. So, that’s all part of our
affordability and access program in the state and just
thought I would mention that. This is officially FAFSA
completion month in Ohio, so, I’d better say it.
– You made your pitch? You got it in there.
– One at the end of the month. On the last day of the month. – And again, that’s
money that’s available. That’s opportunities
that’s available. One of the things too, when we talk about higher
education traditionally, we think four year colleges,
maybe even two year college, but two year colleges and
other programs that get people into other types of professions are
just as important because we’re looking at trade
people, that sort of thing, positions that pay
incredibly good money, skills that are needed around. So, the Department
of Higher Education has to work with that. It isn’t just the
traditional four year, the mindset that we’ve
had for a lot years, that’s all about four year, or
even just two year colleges. There’s a lot more
to it than that. – Actually, maybe one
thing that did surprise me to the degree that the
Department of Higher Education is involved in adult
career centers, and adult career programs. Penta Career Center, for
example, here in Wood County. And they’re another of
other career centers in greater Northwest Ohio, that might be part of
watching this program tonight, they’re a very important part. Ohio technical centers we have
54 of those around the state. And so, what I believe
the Cabinet should do, the Department should do,
the Governor should do, is we need to provide as
much information as possible to every person, both adult
and those going through junior high and high school,
as much information as possible about what the in demand jobs
are, what the wages might be, what the education
attainment requirements are, and the opportunity’s in Ohio to be part of our state’s
future, our state’s economy. We owe them as much
information as possible, we have some of the most,
we have some of the best trades programs,
apprenticeship programs, in the whole country, right
here in Northwest Ohio. We also have some great
independent private institutions of higher education,
community colleges, four year public schools, we
have so many things to offer. The greatest thing about Ohio
is we have more diversity and opportunity and
options for students. If you’re interested in
a career in an occupation in an education program
you can find it here in the state of Ohio. There’s a place for you in Ohio. Those are my words and
I’m standing by them. And would love to share
that story with anyone who wants to contact
the Department and make sure that you
have all that information because the diversity
and the options and the opportunities in Ohio– – Are here. – Are endless. No question.
– Good. Well, we’ll be back
in just a moment with more from Randy Gardner, chancellor of the Ohio
Department of Higher Education, here on Talking 419. Thank you for staying with
us here on Talking 419. Our guest is Randy Gardner,
the 10th chancellor of the Ohio Department
of Higher Education. Long time state legislature
who’s been on this particular position for about
nine months now. One of the things you talked
about and did a great job of getting that information
out is the accessibility, the opportunities and
programs, facilities, all of that around the state. On the other hand
some people would say, “Why does Ohio have so many “brick and mortar
facilities all over? “Isn’t that waste,
haven’t we over done it, “especially in this
age of technology “where you don’t have to
have brick and mortar?” Talk about that, because
Ohio’s always been very good at making sure people had access, back before there
was the internet. Universities, schools, all
of that were accessible. So, address that
issue when people say, “Gee, we have too many. “Can’t we consolidate,
can’t we cut back? “Aren’t we wasting money there
with all these facilities?” – I think that’s
actually a really, I think it’s a great question. It’s a challenging question, one of my favorite questions, because then it gives
me a chance to say– – You’re prepared I have a feeling.
– Maybe if I was on the game day on ESPN, “Not so fast!” – Yeah, okay. (laughs)
– So. (laughs) So no, actually, I think
the number of institutions, the diversity of
the institutions, the variety of options
that we offer in this state is actually a clear
Ohio strength. For example, let’s just
take Northwest Ohio. So, you can go to Bowling
Green State University, the University of Toledo. You can go to Owen’s
Community College. You can go to
Findlay or Lourdes, you can go to NorthWest
State or Terra, you can go to Mercy
College in nursing, and a variety of other programs all within about 30
miles here, 30, 40 miles. What tremendous opportunities. Now, you can, now you don’t
even have to choose one. Owen’s Community
College, for example, has something they
call Oiler Express. You can simultaneously
become a student at Owen’s Community College, you’re simultaneously enrolled
at the University of Findlay, you have a two plus two
program, the same advisors, they help work you through it, and after one semester at Owen’s you’re officially
enrolled in Findlay. And so, a public institution
and an independent private institution working together. Same with Gray Wolf Express,
Lourdes, they have that too. And they have Falcon Express
and they have Rocket Express. So, I think the new age
now of higher education is, you’d better listen and
change and be more adaptable to the learning needs and
the career expectations and options of future students, or you’re going to lose
quote market share, you’re gonna have fewer
students coming to your campus. And you may not do
very well unless, you have to meet those needs. You mentioned technology. Online, blended online learning. That has it’s place. I think, I hope there’s
never a day when everything is just internet based,
web based, online based because I still think
the personal interactions on college campuses
are still important. But for those who
prefer not to do that, and prefer to go online,
they have that option too. And I think candidly,
colleges need to be engaged in that
enterprise at some level or they’re going to lose
again and not become an option of choice
for many students. But, no, I do believe
that there shouldn’t be, in the public realm, I don’t
think we need 14 law schools, or 14 medical schools or
14 engineering schools, when you’re looking at public
universities for example. But I also don’t
think there should be only one English department, or one History department, or one Computer
Science department. So, you have to have a
balance of not having too much duplication but
also not deciding, you know, one of my
favorite quotations in public life has been, from
Thomas Sowell, who said that, “In government, in politics,
it’s not what’s best “is the most important question. “It’s who gets to
decide what’s best.” And I don’t think the
chancellor or the Governor or bureaucrats in Columbus
should make every decision about what kind of education is offered throughout the state. A board of trustees should
still be very engaged in that. Local university and college
leaders and communities should be involved in
deciding what they need and what the believe is best. So, I do think we
should try to avoid unnecessary duplication. I think we should expect
more of our colleges and universities working
with the business community, meeting the in demand jobs
of today and the future, in terms of workforce
preparation. But I don’t think it
should be a top down, Columbus knows best attitude of telling BGSU or UT or Owens or anyone
else in this region, or anywhere else in the state,
“This is what you must do.” We’re gonna encourage them,
we’re gonna push them to be part of our state agenda, but we’re not gonna
impose a lot of mandates. I don’t think that’s
Mike DeWine’s philosophy
of government. I know it’s not, and
it’s certainly not mine. – Now, one of the things
when we look at that too is, the state has been, as I say, very good about
providing accessibility. And of course now as we
mention College Credit Plus. Your role now in
higher education, when you were in the
legislature you represented higher education,
pre-K through 12, how’s the balance work now? Because people are competing
for budget dollars in Columbus. The pre-K through 12
people have an agenda that fits what they need to do. How do you now as higher
education, balance your goals in higher education
to make sure everybody gets to the table and you’re
able to work with everybody and negotiate good
packages, good arrangements for everybody in the state. – That’s an
interesting question. I’m not sure anyone’s
every asked it in that way, so really well… – Okay, thanks. (chuckles) – Unfortunately, really
well asked there, Steve. But no, I think this, I think that just because
I’m the chancellor, and officially kind of like
the CEO of the Department of Higher Education, it
doesn’t mean I should be parochial in my interest
in the higher ed budget, or in higher ed policy. Because people are
frustrated that people don’t work together and they
don’t collaborate. Well, if they’re frustrated
that universities don’t collaborate, communities
don’t collaborate together, then they ought to be
frustrated if a chancellor can’t work with the state
superintendent of schools. So, I still, I’m
not gonna walk away from a healthy
respect for the pre-K, 12 and up system. I still, I was at my alma mater Eastwood High School this week. I love going back to talk to students at
Eastwood High School. That’s, so I still have
a great respect there. And so now I’m involved
in working directly with the Department of
Education, the K-12, in a number of
different, for example, the College Credit Plus program
is one of those examples. And there are a number of
other ones that we get ready for the transition from
high school to college, you need them working together. So, I think we’ve got a good
relationship, a good balance. And I’m not gonna walk away
from my K through 12 priorities even while a have the
privilege of overseeing the higher education system. – Well, we’ll get
you out on this one. When the time comes
that you decide, and I don’t wanna be the
chancellor of higher ed anymore, maybe another opportunity comes, or maybe you’re saying, “Oh,
I’m gonna go sit on a beach someplace, gonna come back
to Wood County and relax around my pond out at
my house, you know, on the west side
of Bowling Green. What would you like
people to remember about Randy Gardner’s legacy as
the chancellor of higher ed? – (hesitates audibly) Well, you know what? Boy, that’s another, you know.
– Yeah. (laughs) – When you think
about it I’m nine, I’m nine months–
– I know you’re really in the curve.
– I’m nine months old and you’re, so, I don’t want the
to start thinking, I don’t want them to start hoping for that.
– No, no, no, but– – You know what, I–
– But if you, but if you had, if today you had to
say, what would it be, what would you
think it would be? – We gave more opportunity
for both adults who want to come back
into the college system, and for young people to
realize their dreams, advance their careers and
do so in the state of Ohio, to whatever extent we can
offer that opportunity, I want to make Ohio a priority. I want Ohio to be a destination
state for higher education. And I just wanna
provide an opportunity in working with lots of
other people in the state, thousands of other
people in the state, to elevate higher education
to the role that it can be for young people’s lives and the future
economy of the state. I think, if Ohio is gonna
be stronger economically, it needs a strong
higher education system, it needs healthy productive
colleges, universities. BGSU for example, I have a
great, great pride in BGSU as someone who came here. And the president of
BGSU, Rodney Rogers, is just so engaged and very
respected around the state. President of University
of Toledo, Sharon Gaber, is now the president of
the entire 14 member IUC. Great people to work
with, and many others, Steve Robinson at Owen’s
Community College, now that I’ve started, I’m
gonna need five more minutes to mention everybody! I apologize for that. Great people to
work with though, and people that are
really committed. People would be surprised
at just how committed those who work at our
colleges and universities are in helping young people. I mean, it’s just, an award
winning student engagement. There’s a university in this
state that’s number three in the entire country
in public universities in student engagement. Maybe I shouldn’t
mention who they are. – (laughs) – But, it’s about a quarter
mile from the WBGU studios. But it’s that kind of value
added that many universities bring to the table and
colleges bring to the table, and our trades apprenticeship
programs bring to the table, our adult career centers
bring to the table. I’m just excited that a teacher from a small rural community
in Ohio grew up in lucky Ohio, live in Bowling Green,
gets to do these things and it’s just-
– Got the teach at Otsego. I’ll throw that in for my alma mater (laughs)
– Got to teach at Otsego, absolutely, that’s what I meant! Tontogany!
– (laughs) Exactly. – The big village
of Tontogany, Ohio. – Bustling community.
– Shout out to Tontogany. – Yeah, there we go.
– So, it’s just, it’s just been a great
privilege to be able to do all these things and I’m
gonna try to spend another two or three years
working hard to build what you just referred to. But, with Governor DeWine, we have a real opportunity
to build this state and I’m excited for the
privilege of doing it. – Yeah, and we’re lucky
to have you there, we’re good to have you there
because you’ve been an advocate for higher education, and
education in general across states, so–
– That’s kind of you. – He picked the right man,
he picked the right guy. – Well, thank you for saying so. – Randy Gardner, the
chancellor of the Ohio Department of
Higher Education. You can check us out at and of course watch us
every week on WBGU TV. We will see you again next time. (upbeat music)

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