By Casey Elliott and Monica Chapman
The Ohio University Board of Trustees today approved a fee to pay for a new student information system and network upgrade, and heard updates on the university’s progress toward increasing access and affordability.
National Trustee Charles R. Stuckey Jr. briefed board members on the student system upgrade, focusing on its comprehensive nature and the need for immediate action.
“It permeates the whole university and it’s a very, very critical issue,” he said. “The only way we can get there is to address it now.”
The first phase of the upgrade will be supported by $28.3 million in bonds, which the university plans to issue in May. General fund budget reallocations will support half of the annual debt service, while the university proposes to support the rest with a quarterly student fee of no more than $25. Because all students will pay the fee, the Ohio Board of Regents will have to approve it as an exception to the tuition and fee caps in place at the state level.
Pending approval by the Ohio Board of Regents, the fee will go into effect in fall 2009.
Chief Information Officer Brice Bible briefed board members on the benefits of the system upgrade to students, including improved security, 24-hour accessibility and increased speed, hailing the decision as the “right solution for right now.”
In addition to the fee for a new SIS and network upgrade, the board approved 221 new or increased student fees, the majority of which are aimed at covering the cost of course materials and activities. It also approved five increases to broad-based fees, including a new technology fee for graduate and undergraduate students in the College of Fine Arts. The fees are not subject to the state tuition cap because they are not universally applied to all students.
Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Craig Cornell discussed the state of
affordability and access at Ohio University. He noted that federal and state commitments to affordability, the strong scholarship programs at Ohio University, as well as tuition freezes, have made college more affordable for a number of students.
Cornell also credited tax credits and the continued lowering of interest rates
on student loans as primary factors in a continuing downward trend in final out-of-pocket costs for a college education.
“When it’s all said and done, practically every student who receives financial
aid in the entire university is going to benefit in some way,” he told
Currently, Ohio University is in the middle of the pack for tuition, fees and room and board. That position is maintained after institutional aid is taken into consideration, he said. Ohio University, he noted, is ranked fourth among Ohio’s public colleges for “out of pocket” tuition and fees – at $6,878 for its in-state, full-time undergraduate population.
Even so, Cornell noted that the university’s top competitors are currently out-
spending Ohio University on scholarships according to recent studies. In an
effort to remain competitive and meet enrollment targets, Cornell advocated
growing the university’s general funded scholarships in proportion to some
metric, such as a percentage of tuition and fees.
As a testament to the impact of scholarship dollars, Cornell pointed to the
Gateway Programs, Ohio University’s premier scholarship programs. Such
scholarships increase both student access and success, and are integral in
reaching the record number of applications and interest the institution has seen over the
past two years, he said.
McDavis said the university’s success in student recruitment and retention
underscores the institution-wide focus provided by the Five-Year Vision OHIO
“When you focus, when you have a strategic plan, it sets the direction for
your institution, which helps you to lift the quality of your students because
you have every office that then focuses on getting to a particular outcome,”
Trustees praised the report for its detail, noting that the data would be a
powerful tool for attracting new students to the institution.
In his report, McDavis highlighted Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland’s continued commitment to higher education. McDavis also hailed the governor’s proposed new funding formula, which will reward institutions for student outcomes such as graduation rates and course completions, rather than enrollment headcounts.
“The indicators bode well for Ohio University,” he said. “The fact that we’re moving toward an outcomes-based funding formula speaks well for where Ohio is going and certainly in terms of where we will land from the standpoint of recognition for future budgets.”
Addressing the university’s fiscal 2010 budget, McDavis noted that the university has implemented a number of moves to address a budget shortfall, including statewide partnerships and shared services, administrative restructurings, an early retirement incentive plan and workforce reductions.
McDavis outlined progress in raising faculty salaries, a Vision OHIO objective, noting faculty salaries moved in ranking to 3rd among Ohio peer institutions, from 4th, with full professor salaries moving to 3rd in the state, from 6th.
McDavis also noted recruitment gains, with freshman applications standing at 13,953 as of April 10, 129 more than at that time last year. Moreover, the average ACT score of applicants is 23.40, compared with 23.23 last year, and multicultural and international diversity are up as well.
McDavis added that he would be presenting an action plan to the board at its June meeting in response to a comprehensive evaluation of his performance. The board released that evaluation at its January meeting.
Other board news
Outgoing Chairman C. Daniel DeLawder and student trustee Tracy Kelly were both honored for their service to the board. Gov. Ted Strickland will appoint a new trustee and a new student trustee in the coming months.
Board Trustee C. Robert Kidder was selected as the new chairman of the board, while Vice Chair M. Marnette Perry will continue as vice chair. Perry withdrew her name for the chair because of family health issues.
The board also heard input from Faculty Senators David Thomas and Joe McLaughlin – two new faculty representatives to the board – in committee discussions relating to budget issues and academics Thursday. Their membership on the board is a new feature, approved in January, to ensure greater communication between the board and the faculty and to bolster that relationship.
In other official action, the board approved:
- A 5 percent increase to the Ohio University College of Osteopathic Medicine’s instructional fee and the non-resident surcharge. This will be used to fund Vision OHIO initiatives, accreditation-related activities, inflationary expenditure increases and expenses associated with increased enrollment. The money also will help to partially offset reductions in state funding.
- A request to increase room and board rates by 7 percent and 3 percent, respectively. These figures are less than the increases initially indicated in the Housing and Dining 10-Year Operating Plan presented to the board last June. According to Director of Budget Planning and Analysis Rebecca Vazquez-Skillings, officials made the change in order to enhance college affordability during a difficult economic time.
- An increase to the per credit hour rate for the Master’s in Financial Economics program on the Pickerington campus to $426, from $400.
- The first significant phase of the Central Food Facility renovation project. The university currently prepares most food at individual locations throughout campus. The proposed renovations and new equipment purchases will move the university closer to established best practices by centralizing food preparation and, as a result, improve safety and efficiency and reduce waste. The overall renovation plan for the facility, which was presented to the board last June, indicates that this first phase will cost about $6 million.
- Emeritus/Emerita status of 22 individuals upon their retirement.
- Thirty-eight University Faculty Fellowships for 2009-10.
- The creation of an Undergraduate Certificate Program in Islamic Studies and a Graduate Certificate Program in Bioinformatics.
- Reviews of the Electronic Media Program, the Aerospace Studies Program, the School of Communication Studies and the Department of Modern Languages.
- The appointments of Jeffrey T. Gering and Michael B. Haller (Chillicothe) and Judith Rebic and Thomas M. Lyall (Zanesville) to membership on the Coordinating Council at the Regional Campuses of Ohio University.
- A resolution reappointing Charles Stuckey to national trustee for an additional year. National trustees serve two-year terms and Stuckey has completed two terms. National trustees are selected to serve on the board for their particular field of expertise. Stuckey was asked to extend his term an additional year based on his extensive information technology knowledge and experience.
- A resolution setting Board of Trustees meeting dates for 2009-10
- A resolution approving Honorary Degrees to Maya Lin, doctor of public service; Paul Dutton Grannis, doctor of science; Herman Leonard, doctor of fine arts; and Judy Clabes, doctor of communication.
- A resolution approving a statement of expectations for trustees. (See sidebar, Governance Committee)