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Board of Regents chancellor to end term early

Ohio's top higher education official announced yesterday morning that he is stepping down effective March 13, two days before Gov. John Kasich is scheduled to release his biennial budget.

Eric Fingerhut has served as chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents for four years and was appointed by former Gov. Ted Strickland. His five-year term was set to expire in March 2012.

"I knew that I was not going to serve the entire term of Gov. Kasich, and, therefore, really it was important to let him put his team in place, and we agreed that it was the right time when the budget process begins on March 15," Fingerhut said. "... Once we got past the budget introduction, it's important to have someone who could see that through, and I certainly could not commit to that."

Fingerhut plans to continue working in higher education after he leaves the Board of Regents, he said, adding that he expects Kasich to appoint his replacement "relatively soon."

Ohio University must now establish a relationship with a new chancellor as it works with the state to advocate for higher education funding.

"Anytime there is a change in leadership at the state level, it's important for the university to connect with the new leader and continue to make the case for strong state support for higher education," said Becky Watts, chief of staff to OU President Roderick McDavis, adding that McDavis communicates with Fingerhut on a "very frequent basis."

OU is preparing for a $27 million reduction in state funding next fiscal year as a result of Ohio's projected $8 billion budget shortfall. The university will not have a firm idea of how much money it will receive from the state until Kasich releases his biennial budget draft March 15.

In a statement, McDavis praised Fingerhut's work as chancellor.

"He has undertaken important initiatives that have challenged universities and colleges to elevate excellence at each institution while collaborating to improve efficiency," McDavis said in a statement. "(OU) is grateful ... for his support and advocacy of our work for and with students."

Fingerhut called higher education an "exciting and growing field" and emphasized its importance to Ohio.

"I think that higher education is the essential state asset in this global economy and that the state will have to invest in higher education to be competitive globally," Fingerhut said.

In November, the Board of Regents estimated public universities in Ohio would see "significantly higher tuition" and program reductions if Kasich cuts funding to the board by 10 percent, according to a budget estimate submitted by Fingerhut to the governor's office. The board provides state funding to public universities in Ohio, which helps keep the cost of tuition down.

OU officials said last week that tuition will likely increase next school year.

In a letter to Kasich, Fingerhut said he will work with the governor's office to "ensure a smooth transition of leadership" for the Board of Regents. He also thanked Strickland and other state leaders for their "courtesy, support and confidence," and said he has "loved every minute" of his job as chancellor.


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