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Thursday, Oct 23, 2014

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Ohio University Board of Trustees weighs in on renovations, capital campaign


University officials updated the board on plans for major residence hall renovations and unveiled a capital campaign goal during today’s Ohio University Board of Trustees meetings.
 
In June, representatives from the facility and program management firm Brailsford & Dunlavey had provided the board with an initial strategic and market analysis of the residence halls on campus. Today’s joint meeting of the Resources and Academics Committees served as a forum to discuss the more in-depth phase two of that market analysis and possible next steps in the planning process.
 
Julie Skolnicki, regional vice president for Brailsford & Dunlavey, began by reviewing the priorities that had emerged from the June meeting, including maintaining a traditional residential campus, improving student life and academic support spaces within the residence halls, and remaining competitive with Ohio peers and off-campus housing in regard to both pricing and quality.
 
“This is a residential campus,” she said. “You do have a freshman/sophomore live-on requirement, and we really want to focus on enhancing their experience.”
 
According to the report, the demand from students for more varied housing options is significant. Of the current residence hall rooms, 90 percent are traditional while 10 percent are semi-suites. The research indicates that, with an increase in the quantity of semi- and full suites, the university could increase the number of juniors and seniors who remain in campus housing from 14 percent and 4 percent to as high as 64 percent and 58 percent, respectively. 
 
Skolnicki also presented two possible funding scenarios. In scenario A, the university would finance all renovation and new construction, including demolition, resulting in a total out-of-pocket cost in excess of $300 million. In scenario B, where the university finances renovation and demolition costs and a private third-party finances any new construction, the university would take on close to half that figure, while the private company would shoulder the rest of the costs.
 
Brailsford & Dunlavey CEO and Founder Paul Brailsford pointed out that, once the board members determine various project details – including how much debt they are willing to assume, how much housing they want to impact and how quickly they would like to finish construction – he could provide a more finely targeted financial scenario that falls somewhere between these two.
 
Ohio University is currently 2 percent below average for room rates compared to Ohio peers, but behind when it comes to being able to offer the types of accommodations that students want. Based on a survey of OHIO students and parents -- in addition to the high demand for suite-style rooms -- features such as in-room wireless Internet access, a convenient location, private bathrooms and on-site laundry facilities were among the amenities deemed most important in newly constructed housing.
 
Skolnicki said that the university needs to find a balance between affordability and marketability in order to remain competitive with peer institutions, some of which have already begun major residence hall renovations.
 
“We don’t want to raise the rates too high and lose students and we don’t want to let the quality fall and lose students, so we have to focus on both,” she said.
 
Trustee Robert Kidder stressed the importance of knowing exactly how various scenarios will affect the university’s bottom line and asked that the funding scenarios be integrated into the institution’s long-term financial plan. This crucial data would help the board members better understand the benefits of renovation and new construction versus the project’s impact on the financial strength of the university, he said. 

Capital Campaign
 
Howard Lipman, vice president for University Advancement and president and CEO of The Ohio University Foundation, announced a goal of $450 million for the Promise Lives capital campaign.
 
The Campaign Steering Committee and The Foundation Board of Trustees made the recommendation based on such factors as the university’s needs and potential donor capacity. Since launching the silent phase of the campaign on July 1, 2007, the university already has raised more than $216 million.
 
A primary objective of the campaign is to support the university’s vision statement to become the nation’s best transformative learning community.
 
Funding priorities within the colleges, major units, such as the Libraries and Student Affairs, and on the regional campuses will support the vision by cultivating an outstanding academic and student-life experience; increasing access and opportunity; augmenting investments in research, discovery and creative activity; enriching the campus environment; and expanding outreach and partnerships.

Another campaign objective is to grow and strengthen the university’s endowment. This will be achieved by increasing the number of endowed scholarships and fellowships; increasing the number of academic chairs and professorships; securing endowed resources for academic colleges and programs; and building support for university-wide and college-based initiatives.

In addition, the campaign will raise funds that will be made available for immediate use to support select capital projects and to fund research and development projects.

“We have an objective to put a firmer financial pillar under Ohio University,” says David A. Wolfort, ’74, Ohio University trustee who earlier this year agreed to serve as the campaign’s vice chairman. “We really want our fellow alumni to embrace this as not just the success of one individual campaign, but the success of our university into the next century.”