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Providing quality education to drive budget decisions
McDavis: Conversations at state level and at home will help define details of governor's proposed budget

ATHENS, Ohio (March 22, 2007) -- Ohio University has not yet decided whether it will participate in the "compact" for higher education proposed by Gov. Ted Strickland last week, President Roderick J. McDavis told reporters Wednesday at his monthly press conference.

The compact would increase the state portion of support for higher education by 5 percent in FY '08 and 2 percent in FY '09, if institutions agree to freeze tuition next year and hold to a 3 percent increase the following year. 

Under the terms of the proposed compact, which are not yet finalized, the university would receive approximately $3 million in the first year. McDavis explained that he intends to have conversations with the legislature and the chancellor of the Board of Regents, the governor's point person on higher education, in order to confirm details of the plan before making a determination. 

"We don't have to make a decision right away about whether or not we will become part of the compact," McDavis said. "We will take more time to look at the figures, to listen to what the legislature has to say about the issue."

He also plans to work with the Board of Trustees and the Budget Planning Council, the committee charged with balancing the university's budget for FY '08, in order to make budget decisions.

"Our first and highest priority is to provide quality education for the students of Ohio University," McDavis said. 

McDavis reported that the university had been planning for an approximately $6.2 million deficit, but that participating in the proposed compact could create an $11 million shortfall. 

Tuition makes up about 65 percent of the university's budget, while state subsidy makes up about 30 percent. So, for example, a 5 percent increase in state subsidy would generate less income (about $3 million) than a 3 percent tuition increase would (about $4.2 million). The effect of the compact's tuition cap requirements, coupled with an increase based on only the 30 percent of the budget supported by the state, would combine to create the additional deficit. 

Recognizing the ideals represented in the compact as an important step, McDavis said he applauds the governor's efforts to encourage the state to invest in higher education.

"We certainly commend Governor Strickland for wanting the state to renew its investment in higher education," McDavis said, acknowledging the importance of making higher education accessible. "That is a very positive sign."

Reporters asked the president if other campuses were leaning toward participating in the compact and whether they would act as a whole. McDavis explained that the institutions in the Inter-University Council of Ohio have been in a conversation and that all were saying they are struggling to offer quality education when costs keep rising and budgets are shrinking. He said it was not yet clear if Ohio's 13 public institutions would go forward with one voice or make individual decisions and statements.

The university, with a current-year operating budget of approximately $335 million for the Athens campus and approximately $558 million total for all campuses, must present a balanced budget for FY '08 to the Board of Trustees in June. 

Other topics discussed at Wednesday's press briefing included:

  • Academic honesty: McDavis said that the Office of Academic Affairs in the next week will provide an update on the work of the Academic Honesty Hearing Committee, including whether the university plans to revoke any degrees, and the progress of the Academic Integrity Committee, charged with developing initiatives such as the use of antiplagiarism software at the university.

  • Quarters versus semesters: The Task Force on the Academic Calendar and System is continuing its work, including preparation to gather input from the university community on the topic. The group, which was slated to submit its final recommendation on whether to stay on quarters or switch to semesters by the end of spring quarter, requested an extension to conduct research. McDavis granted the extension, and the committee now will submit its report in the summer. "I felt that it's more important to get the report right than to get it by the end of the spring quarter," McDavis said.

  • Recording Industry Association of America notices to students regarding their alleged involvement with the illegal downloading of music: McDavis reported that he has asked the newly hired chief information officer, Brice Bible, to make recommendations on file-sharing issues, such as whether the university will block file-sharing software on its servers and whether it will provide a new universitywide music downloading service when the current service expires. He said he wants Bible, who will officially begin his work at Ohio University April 16, to have conversations with Student Affairs and Student Senate to establish agreement on the best way to move forward on the topic.

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Written by: Elizabeth Boyle

Media Contact: Acting Senior Director of Media Relations Sally Linder, 740-597-1793 or linders@ohio.edu

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