The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

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World, nation, state

November 25, 2012

Ohio launches website to ease college planning

COLUMBUS — Audra Banfield has a pleasant but unnerving problem: By the time she graduates from high school, the Columbus high school junior expects to have as much as a year’s worth of college credit under her belt.

The unnerving part was finding out what colleges would accept the credit she’s earning as a student at Metro Early College High School and how they would count it.

Banfield, 17, says a new website recently launched by the Ohio Board of Regents is designed to sort out just such matters.

“The website really helped me figure out what fields or careers I might go into,” Banfield said. “But the most important to me was to see where my credits would transfer.”

Visitors to the site can compare colleges in their interest areas, look for financial aid and learn how different institutions will treat their on-the-job training, military experience or advanced placement credit.

Students as young as eighth grade receive pointers for preparing for their chosen college and explore career paths, through a drag-and-drop “backpack” used to assemble their preferences and interests.

The website is the latest tool being offered by Ohio higher education officials in their efforts to boost college graduation and technical certificate completion in the state. Only 26 percent of Ohioans have a bachelor’s degree, below the national average of 31 percent.

Most of the fastest-growing occupations require at least a bachelor’s degree. By 2018, nearly 1 million jobs will open up in Ohio that require at least a post-secondary credential, a Georgetown University study found.

“In today’s highly competitive and global economy, every Ohioan needs to pursue post-secondary education because the only certainty is that the jobs of tomorrow will flow to communities, states and nations where people have the education to fill them,” Board of Regents Chancellor Jim Petro said in launching the site last week.

The site also includes information about the Ohio Transfer to Degree Guarantee, which streamlines credit transfers among the state’s public colleges, universities and career centers to enable students to complete general education requirements as well as coursework for more than 60 degree programs.

College transfer is a growing trend among students who want to save money by starting at less expensive institutions and transfer to four-year institutions to complete a bachelor’s degree. Annual transfer volumes have increased by 43 percent in the past 10 years, according to the Regents.

About 43,000 students transferred within the University System of Ohio during the 2010-2011 academic year, and Ohio’s credit transfer program helped students save an estimated $46.1 million.

Petro said 1.3 million Ohioans have some college credit and the transfer guarantee can help them earn a college degree or technical certificate more easily.

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