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Ohio University trustees approve tuition increases, take action on mineral rights recommendations

The Ohio University Board of Trustees today approved a 3.5 percent tuition and general fee increase for students on the Athens campus, among other actions.

In a joint meeting of the Academics and Resources committees on Thursday, Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit and Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding outlined how the tuition and fee increase supports the University's continued commitment to academic quality and access.  

The requested increase will allow the University to invest in instructional capacity, technology to support the work of students and faculty and student support services including advising and programming. Revenue generated from the increase also will, in part, fund scholarships to help offset higher tuition costs. OHIO currently leads the state in providing scholarships or grants to undergraduate students who demonstrate need.

When inflationary increases in health care and utilities and a proposed 2.5 percent raise pool for faculty and staff are added to the academic quality and access investments, there is still an approximate $4.7 million gap between available funds and funding priorities. At an open forum on April 11, the Budget Planning Council began the process of engaging the University community in conversations about what tradeoffs to make to achieve a balanced FY 2013 budget.

The Board of Trustees also approved charging one tuition rate at all five regional campuses. Currently there are slightly lower rates at the Eastern and Southern campuses, and different rates for lower-division (those with less than 92 completed credits) and upper-division students at all of the regional campuses. The elimination of these two categories will reduce confusion among students and staff in transfer credit evaluation, billing and financial aid processing.

The change to one rate will slightly raise the lower division tuition and slightly decrease the upper division tuition for a net effect of a 0.43 percent increase. With a 1.57 percent general across-the-board increase, the combined net effect is a 2 percent increase. Even with the adjustments, tuition will remain under $5000 per year for a full-time, in-state, regional campus student.

Mineral Rights
The Board heard a report from the Ad Hoc Mineral Rights Committee about horizontal high‐pressure hydraulic fracturing (fracking) to extract oil and gas on University-owned land. Because of Ohio House Bill 133 – legislation that overhauled the process for leasing state-owned lands for oil and gas development – this topic is of pressing concern.

The committee examined many facets of this issue, including the rights and responsibilities of the Board under HB 133, the potential for fracking on University lands, the possible long-term impacts and recommended leasing stipulations. Open forums were held on every campus to gather feedback from the University community.

The committee made formal recommendations designed to safeguard the University's campuses and surrounding communities regardless of its decision to enter into a lease. These include establishing an environmental baseline – with geological surveys, information on air quality and drinking water reserves, reports of health conditions connected to environmental factors and other elements – for any lands under consideration and to draft sample leases that hold any lessee accountable to maintain those conditions.

Recommendations also included uniform decision-making procedures for each campus when considering a lease, guidelines for how any income earned through such leases should be used and suggestions for securing the University's investments and maintaining the property over the long term.

The committee strongly suggested that the University refrain from engaging in leasing activity on five of its six campuses until more is understood about the long-term effects of fracking. An exception was made for the Eastern Campus. That campus has fielded offers to drill on its land, and because adjacent areas have already been leased, the committee recommended that the University enter into an agreement prior to the enactment of HB 133 so as to include as many of the proposed safeguards as possible.

The Board passed a resolution on Friday empowering President McDavis or his designee to enter into mineral rights agreements, pending final approval by the Board, should such contracts be determined to be in the best interests of the University.

In other business, the Academics Committee heard from Gladys W. and David H. Patton College of Education Dean Renee Middleton. Middleton gave a presentation that focused on how the college measures academic quality and how its strategic goals are determined.

Middleton shared the college's most recent accomplishment – being named one of U.S. News and World Report's top 100 colleges for graduation education programs. Middleton also presented the college's dashboard, including the growth of student diversity and a sustained increase in student travel funding to assist undergraduate and graduate students in presenting their research. The accreditation processes that the college must undergo also formed part of Middleton's presentation.

Elizabeth Sayers, chair of the University Curriculum Council, reported on the progress made by a working group that was created to assess the current academic program review process. The working group discussed how to utilize available data in a way that makes sense for each program; attempted to outline the purposes and the hoped for outcomes of program reviews; examined how accreditation reviews can be aligned with program reviews; and identified ways in which reviews can be made beneficial and meaningful to programs. The work of the committee will be shared with the University Curriculum Council, Graduate Council, chairs, directors and deans.

Chief Information Officer Brice Bible provided an update on a variety of technology projects. He informed the committee that the Rufus Initiative Phase I is complete. As a result, students now have one portal for accessing information such as class schedules, financial aid statements, bill paying and other activities.  

Bible indicated that the NextGen network (infrastructure modernization including both wired and wireless networks) is moving forward. He also briefed the committee on some of the new developments in academic technology that are underway, including developing the capacity for "flip classrooms," which combines taped lectures for viewing outside of class so that face-to-face interactions in classrooms can be used for research, discussion and project work.

The Resources Committee heard updates on the Residential Housing Development Plan, which had been approved by the Board at its November meeting. The University has been waiting for the state to release new construction guidelines, which may result in a savings of 15 to 20 percent from initial estimates. This delay has pushed the expected occupancy date for the first new residence hall construction to January or fall quarter 2015. Other aspects of the plan are moving forward as expected, including the completion of the Housing Utilities Master Plan, the selection of an engineering firm and the recruitment of a project manager.

The Board also approved:

  • A resolution to approve a 3.5 percent increase to standard double room rates and a 1.5 percent increase in board rates. The room and board rates are designed to address inflationary increases and to ensure that each unit can meet its capital needs.

  • A resolution approving a 5 percent increase to the instructional and general fee, non-resident surcharge and resource technology fee for students in the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

  • A resolution to approve course, technology and miscellaneous fees.

  • A resolution allowing for an increase to program fees for off-campus graduate programs by $3 per hour for programs that will no longer receive the general fee as part of their revenue distribution; an increase of $20 to the Engineering Management program fee; and new program fee rates for new cohorts in the Masters of Financial Economics, Professional MBA and Professional Masters of Sports Administration programs.

  • A resolution to approve and authorize the University to develop construction documents, receive bids and award construction contracts for the Jefferson Hall roof repair replacement, South Green "Front Four" parking garage ceiling replacement, Scripps College of Communication Phase I and the Compost Facility expansion projects. The latter two projects had been previously approved by the Board, but have had revisions to their budgets and funding sources.

  • A resolution to establish the Strategic Research Enhancement Quasi-Endowment and the Humanities Research Fund Quasi-Endowment. These quasi-endowments will support the University's Technology Transfer Office and research in the field of humanities, respectively.

  • A resolution authorizing the president or his designee to enter into an Economic Development Agreement with the City of Dublin, Ohio

  • A resolution to award emeritus/emerita status to faculty and staff in recognition of their dedicated and outstanding service to Ohio University.

  • A resolution to approve a proposed list of University Faculty Fellowships.

  • A resolution that the ARHI Diabetes Center @ Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine be renamed The Diabetes Institute at Ohio University.

  • A resolution to approve the creation of a Department of Osteopathic Manipulative Medicine in OU-HCOM.

  • A resolution to approve offering a Diabetes Certificate by the School of Applied Health Sciences and Wellness.

  • A resolution to change the name of the space in the Academic Research Center currently named "OU-COM Society of Alumni & Friends Café" to "Jack's Place" in honor of OU-HCOM Dean John A. Brose.

  • A resolution to approve the proposed Board of Trustees' meeting dates for the next year.

  • A resolution to grant honorary degrees to Andrew Alexander, Nancy Cartwright, Hwa-Wei Lee, Thomas J. Meyer and Paul Schullery.