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Making the Argument for OHERN

A critical element in Ohio’s Strategic Plan for Higher Education is the call for a reduction in costs of education through various cost-cutting measures and new initiatives. Centers of excellence are to be recognized and the historical counter-productive competition among institutions is to be reduced through greater collaboration and the sharing of resources.

Solutions to encourage collaboration include an increased reliance on distance learning, adoption of new learning strategies and streamlined admission standards. However, faced with the unpredictable and often high cost of transportation, the overall effectiveness of these new initiatives could be blunted.

In one form or another, most Ohioans confront the problem of high travel costs. However, since transportation is one of the largest indirect cost associated with higher education, the burden of high travel costs falls especially hard on households with members in college.

The cost of fuel drives many families out of the higher education market and makes it all the more difficult for people on different campuses to collaborate. For example, how can students, faculty or staff be expected to increase their travel to other schools at a time of high fuel prices? Distance learning technologies provide one solution but there are limits to what Internet technologies can do. There will always be projects, experiments or exciting new collaborations where it is essential for students to visit a science lab, art museum, agricultural experiment station, or attend a conference or athletic event on another campus. But how can these firsthand experiences continue or even be expanded in the face of rising travel costs? Is there a way to reduce transportation costs associated with higher education while simultaneously increasing collaboration among Ohio’s colleges and universities?

The OHERN plan would link all Ohio institutions of higher learning via rail providing an effective means of lowering transportation costs while increasing the opportunities for learning, sharing and collaboration.

The OHERN solution is relatively inexpensive since the plan relies on the use of existing freight rail and self-propelled, diesel-electric passenger trains. The system can be funded largely through a modest fee charged each semester - a fee comparable to the average price of a college textbook.

In return for this fee students, faculty and staff will have unlimited use of a statewide transportation network operating from early in the morning to late at night, seven days a week, 365 days a year. 

The Ohio Higher Education Rail Network will be unique among institutions of higher education, distinguishing the university system from its peers while enhancing the state’s overall transportation system.  When the Plan is adopted, Ohio will serve as the transportation model for the rest of the nation.

             OHERN Institute  •  Bowling Green, Ohio 43402  •  A Research Division of All Aboard Ohio