Dr. K.L. Allen

The past year-and-a-half have been a challenge: lockdowns, health concerns, illness, working from home, job loss — we’ve seen it all. Our states and communities have been hard hit also, with economic ups and downs straining budgets and services stretched to the limit.

Though some of these challenges remain, many of them have eased, particularly the economic ones. The state and national economic picture is strong, with employers hiring and good jobs waiting to be filled. It’s the right time for Ohioans interested in moving up the economic ladder to start climbing.

Some of the Ohioans who are best positioned to succeed right now are those with some college work under their belts but who, for whatever reason, haven’t yet finished their degrees. Let’s face it, sometimes life gets in the way, and family or job responsibilities mean that college goes on the back burner. Today’s economic opportunities combined with new resources for these Ohioans can make it possible to turn up the heat, however.

Ohio’s new “Second Chance Grant” was recently created with the help of Ohio Senate President Matt Huffman, Senate Workforce & Higher Education Committee Vice Chair Jerry Cirino, and Chancellor of Higher Education Randy Gardner. Under this effort, 1,500 Ohioans can receive $2,000 grants to restart their college careers in order to obtain a degree or credential. For Ohioans with some college credit who feel stuck, this extra push could be just the help they need to get moving again.

The number of Ohioans potentially eligible for the Second Chance Grant is large—approximately 1.3 million. This is almost twice as many students who are actually enrolled in Ohio colleges. While the program is starting off small, its potential benefit could be huge. Just think of the scope of the impact if 1.3 million Ohioans with upgraded skills are in our workforce. The benefit to them and their families would, of course, be huge, but employers and our communities would see significant benefits also. Better trained workers mean more competitive companies generating more economic activity in the places we live.

WGU Ohio is excited for what the Second Chance Grant will mean for our state. Our proven online, competency-based model is tailor-made for older students with other obligations—full-time jobs, families, or both. They learn from the convenience of their homes, at the times that are convenient for them and advance at their own pace as they master their program’s educational material. More than 4,400 Ohioans are currently enrolled in WGU Ohio degree programs where they are studying in-demand programs like nursing and other health care professions, business, teaching and information technology. These are all highly-sought skills that prepare Ohioans for rewarding positions employers are eager to fill, and all can be pursued with the Second Chance Grant.

Our health care, advanced manufacturing and information technology employers are growing and looking to hire new members to their teams. WGU Ohio is proud to be part of Ohio’s strong post-secondary community and we work closely with other higher education institutions to advance new learning opportunities for Ohioans. We also work closely with employers to make sure that what we teach is what will prepare Ohioans effectively for the jobs employers need to fill.

The stars are all aligned: many good job opportunities exist, new resources for college are available and great post-secondary institutions are here to help Ohioans finish their degrees. Regardless of where Ohioans turn for their degree or credential training, they will find dedicated higher education professionals willing and able to help them. Now is the time to act, seize the opportunity and rise. Let’s do this.

(Dr. K.L. Allen is chancellor of WGU Ohio, the state affiliate of online, nonprofit Western Governors University.)

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