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Thursday, Oct 30, 2014

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OHIO trustees focus on long-term goals

Fiscal planning, enrollment targets key topics of discussion


Members of the Ohio University Board of Trustees engaged in discussions surrounding long-term strategies to ensure the institution’s academic and fiscal strength at meetings yesterday and today.  

During their meeting today, board members voted to approve a policy that provides guidelines for creating and implementing a mandatory furlough plan as a cost reduction strategy for consideration in the event of an unexpected reduction in the University’s revenue.  According to state law, a University cannot implement a mandatory furlough unless such a Board-approved policy is in place.

The policy mandates that if the University considers developing and implementing a furlough plan the president must meet with the chairs of employee senates and other appropriate constituency groups for input prior to finalizing a furlough plan. The policy also outlines certain elements that need to be included in the plan and indicates which employees may be subject to a furlough.

General Counsel John Biancamano stressed that the University has no plans to employ a furlough in the near future. However, given the budgetary challenges facing the state and the nation, he characterized a policy that establishes procedures for developing a furlough plan as a prudent and necessary step to ensure that the University has an array of strong and flexible contingency plans in place.

“We are asking for the board to approve this policy so that we will have this in our toolbox should it become necessary in the future,” he said.

Financial and enrollment planning
The board also heard several presentations during committee meetings on Thursday that focused on the University’s long-term planning efforts.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding presented a draft of the “Six year sources and uses model and interim financial report” to the Resources Committee.

The University designed this template, which Golding characterized as a work in progress, to serve as a comprehensive financial reporting tool for the board that includes information on all sources of University funding.

The report will also include budget projections for up to six years into the future; the past two years of audited financial results; and budgeted, actual and projected figures for the current fiscal year.

“We hope now that this document will represent the totality of the financial operations at the University,” said Golding, “and that by looking at it you will have a comprehensive look at the financial position of the University over a period of time.”

President Roderick J. McDavis
commended the work that had gone into developing the model, and expressed confidence that it will serve as a valuable planning tool for the trustees and other members of the University community.

Members of the Academics Committee listened as Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Craig Cornell outlined the University’s six-year Strategic Enrollment Management Plan. Faculty staff and students on the Enrollment Management Advisory Committee, as well as several other enrollment-related groups, worked with Cornell to craft this plan over the course of a year with an eye toward sustainable enrollment growth.

The plan emphasizes increased enrollment on the regional campuses in addition to online and distance learning programs over the next six years, while aiming for more modest growth on the Athens campus. The plan takes into consideration which programs have the most capacity as well assumptions related to the expected revenue generation and costs resulting from any enrollment increase. 

”There’s a lot of competition (for students) out there. But at the end of the day, we have an incredible product, and I’ll take that to the bank any day,” said Cornell, adding, “What I like is that we have the ability to offer that on all levels between online, the regional campuses and our traditional campuses.”

Student Health Services
Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith and Dean of the College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-COM) Jack Brose also briefed the members of the Academics Committee on progress achieved and plans for further improving health services for students and what the University has done already to make this happen.

In 2007, a report from independent consulting firm Keeling and Associates revealed a number of inadequacies in the student health services provided at Ohio University. Smith explained how these findings prompted the University to implement numerous changes including expanded hours, additional providers and renovations to examination rooms.

In addition, OU-COM now oversees student health services and has contracted with University Medical Associates, Inc. (UMA) -- the not-for-profit health care organization and faculty practice plan of OU-COM’s clinical faculty -- to provide day-to-day administration and staffing for student health care services. The services were previously aligned under the University’s Division of Student Affairs.

Smith touted the change because it allows the University to mine the experience of people with expertise in the medical field.

Brose stressed the importance of chronic care management, which will now be addressed by Campus Primary Care, one of two distinct programs that make up Campus Care. Through Campus Primary Care, students with chronic conditions like diabetes can receive continuity of care, with the option to schedule appointments with a specific provider. Campus Quick Care will serve as walk-in clinic where students can be evaluated and treated quickly and conveniently.

“This is not about the medical school. This is not about UMA. This is about students, and we have told them to expect positive changes,” said Brose. “I think we’re going in the right direction, and in a year, a year and a half, I think we’ll see much more.”

Plans are currently in the works for additional renovations to the facility, including an expanded waiting room and pharmacy, additional exam rooms and an improved registration area. The University also plans to implement technology improvements like a new electronic billing system, an improved website and a patient portal which would allow for expanded online appointment scheduling, confidential provider communications and access to test results.