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Friday, Oct 31, 2014

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University trustees approve $977.5 million capital plan

Also discuss long-term capital improvements, student experience


The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved an aggressive six-year capital improvement plan and discussed the University’s long-term strategic capital priorities during meetings yesterday and today.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Golding and Associate Vice President for Facilities Harry Wyatt walked trustees through an extensive capital improvement plan (CIP) that spans nearly two decades into the future.

The CIP represents a departure from past reliance on state money to fund major renovations. Instead, it identifies debt as a major source of funding, along with other sources including gifts, grants and public private partnerships. State funds will be used primarily for planned maintenance and minor building renovations.

The plan, which calls for investing more than $2.57 billion into capital improvements through fiscal year 2032, is largely in response to the University’s significant deferred maintenance backlog. As the board has discussed at several previous meetings, this backlog is growing at a rapid rate resulting from a lack of adequate funding for capital needs over the years.

According to a report from consulting firm Sightlines LLC, the backlog is currently at $413 million, or about $78 per square foot, a level that is already causing a noticeable increase in emergency repairs and overall maintenance costs.

At the current levels of funding, that backlog will grow to $1 billion, or $200 per square foot, in just 20 years -- an amount that will prohibit the proper functioning of the University. The projects laid out in the comprehensive plan, however, will prevent the further deterioration of the University’s buildings and reduce the deferred maintenance backlog by 22 percent during the same timeframe.

Academic priorities played a key role in shaping the CIP, and more than 70 percent of the core academic buildings on campus will be affected by the plan’s implementation. Funding for resource efficiency projects are also an integral part of the CIP, continuing the University’s commitment to sustainability.

The development of the plan was a collaborative effort involving many different groups across the University, including Facilities Planning and Space Management, deans and vice presidents, and the Facilities Planning Advisory Council. The University also commissioned several studies from outside consultants to ensure that it will meet long-term needs while not jeopardizing the financial stability of the institution.

The board approved the first six years of the plan, which calls for $977.5 million in capital improvements, $567.5 million of which will be funded through the issuance of debt. Major projects include the Scripps College of Communication, McCracken and Seigfred Halls, the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine Columbus Campus and Alden library. The Lausche Heating Plant, which is near the end of its useful life, will be completely replaced. 

Major renovations to the University’s housing stock, comprising $205 million in the first six years, are also included in the plan. A housing master schedule is in the works, along with several studies that will shape the housing plan going forward.

The board also approved a resolution authorizing the University to issue debt in an amount not to exceed $160 million. The debt will be used in support of various capital projects to be addressed in the first biennium of the CIP and to refinance up to $75 million in previously issued University debt. Refinancing will be performed only in the event that it provides opportunities for the University to reduce expenditures related to debt service.

The additional debt is anticipated to be issued in early 2012 subsequent to approval from the Ohio Board of Regents for the University’s pledge of fees.

Academics committee

The Academics committee members spent much of their time reviewing academic assessment results that reveal important information about the student experience at Ohio University.

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit presented information about ACT Composite scores for Athens campus freshmen. The average composite ACT score for these students is consistently higher than state and national averages.

The results from the spring 2011 National Survey of Student Engagement (NSSE) provided the trustees with information about how Ohio University compares with other universities in the area of active student engagement.

NSSE rates institutions based on the following five benchmarks of effective educational practice: level of academic challenge; active/collaborative learning; student-faculty interaction; enriching educational experiences; and supportive campus environment.

Compared with peer institutions, the mean ratings for seniors at Ohio University were significantly higher, and those of freshmen slightly higher, in four of the five benchmarks. Both groups reported significantly more student-faculty interaction and perceive their educational experiences as more engaging when measured against the responses from students at peer institutions.  

Benoit also presented information on learning outcomes and an assessment of the University’s general education program. The assessments were gathered from the Survey of Alumni; ACT Collegiate Assessment of Academic Proficiency (CAAP) standardized tests; and structured interviews with current freshmen and senior students and faculty. 

Overall, students and alumni are pleased with the quality of general education at the University. Seniors did indicate that they wished for a larger variety of general education courses and greater flexibility as to when they could take them. Seniors also indicated that, in addition to general education classes, out-of-class activities like study abroad and internships were influential in their educational development.

In other business, the Board of Trustees approved:

•    A resolution that authorizes the university to develop construction documents, receive bids and award contracts for Phase I of the Scripps College of Communication Project and for the chilled water expansion project. 

•    A resolution that revises previous board action related to the signature authority of the president. The resolution also authorizes the executive vice president and provost to serve as the designated alternate signatory in the president’s absence; indicates that the president can make sub-delegations of signature authority; and directs the president to implement procedures to ensure compliance with these delegations.

•    A resolution approving the purchase of three parcels of land on which a portion of the Proctorville campus resides.

•    A resolution to support further investigation of the development of a recreation center on the Zanesville campus.

•     A resolution to negotiate and acquire real estate for the development of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM) central Ohio extension campus. The property, which is located at 7001-7003 Post Road in Dublin, Ohio, includes 14.847 acres of land and three existing structures, and will be purchased for $11 million by the University.

•    A resolution to change the name of the Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education and Human Services to the Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education.

•    A resolution to accept the reviews of Centers and Institutes at the University and the recommendations that the following continue: Quantitative Biology Institute; Ohio Center for Ecology and Evolutionary Studies; Center for International Business Education and Development; Center for Sports Administration; Child Development Center; Academic Advancement Center; Tropical Disease Institute (one-year extension); WOUB Center for Public Media (one-year extension); Center for Advanced Software Systems Integration (one-year extension); Avionics Engineering Research Center (one-year extension); Institute for Corrosion and Multiphase Technology and the Center for Corrosion in Multi-Phase System Research (one-year extension).

•    A resolution designating the seminar room on the fifth floor of Alden Library the George V. Voinovich Seminar Room.

•    A resolution that the motion and control laboratory in the Fritz J. and Dolores H. Russ College of Engineering and Technology will be named the Parker Hannifin Motion and Control Laboratory at Ohio University.

•    A resolution approving the University to confer an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Prime Minister of Malaysia Najib bin Tun Abdul Razak.