Saturday, May 26, 2018

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Trustees discuss challenges, opportunities facing University

The Ohio University Board of Trustees held in-depth discussions about the changing landscape of higher education and explored strategies to address these challenges at meetings yesterday and today.

In a joint meeting of the Academics and Resources committees on Thursday, Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit cited national trend data showing that state funding for higher education has been on a steady downward trajectory for several decades. The funding picture in the state of Ohio mirrors these national numbers even as the demand for a college education continues to climb.

According to Vice President for Finance and Administration Steve Golding, an entirely tuition-driven business model would not be enough to bridge the funding gap and would place too high a debt burden on students. However, given that tuition will remain a major part of the University budget, the trustees reviewed two strategies used by other institutions as a means of balancing affordability with the need for revenue.

Differential tuition is a model that would allow the University to charge more for certain programs of study, depending on factors like operational costs, demand for the program and expected salaries following graduation. Guaranteed tuition would ensure that incoming students pay the same tuition rates for four years, although the first year's rate would be higher than under a traditional tuition structure.

Benoit and Golding noted that both models have significant benefits and drawbacks, and that it would require an extended, campus-wide conversation to determine if either is right for Ohio University.

Both committees also reviewed University plans to use space on campus in a more efficient way in order to meet increasing academic needs and reduce operating expenses. The plan calls for concentrating academic units in the center of campus while moving administrative departments to the perimeter. This will open core campus space to accommodate expanding academic needs, while also reducing the administrative footprint and those associated capital costs.

In the Academics committee meeting, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Ryan Lombardi and Dean of University College and Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies David Descutner furthered the discussion of strengthening the University's academic core with an overview of efforts to enhance student life on campus. They reviewed the first-year experience programs that are already in place and that include a foundation of learning communities and peer education networks.

The proposed second-year experience, which would be integrated with existing programming, expands the scope of the living-learning environment on campus and would focus on exposing students to opportunities available in areas like education abroad, research, internships, community service and career planning.

Many of these initiatives could begin as early as 2013, although much of the long-term impact will depend on renovating residence halls – as outlined in the Residential Housing Development Plan – to be more conducive to community-building and to meeting diverse academic and programmatic needs.

In other business, the Board approved:

  • A resolution to adopt instructional fees for the regional campuses that apply the 3.5 percent tuition cap separately for lower and upper division students. This is a slight change to the rates originally set at the Board meeting in April.

  • A resolution to accept an amendment to the Ohio University 403(b) plan that authorizes the University to make pick-up contributions to employees' plans pursuant to their employment agreements.

  • A resolution authorizing the University to develop construction documents, receive bids and award construction contracts for the rehabilitations of Galbreath Chapel and Bush Hall, and renovations to Bromley Hall and the Central Foods Facility.
  • A resolution approving the appointment of Timothy G. Nusbaum and Bryan Chandler to the Coordinating Councils at the regional campuses of Chillicothe and Zanesville, respectively.

  • A resolution to accept the recommendations of the 2011-2012 Reviews of Centers and Institutes to discontinue the Ohio Center for Professional Accountancy and to grant a one-year extension to the Appalachian Rural Health Institute and the George Hill Center for Counseling and Research. The report recommended that the 12 other reviewed centers and institutes be continued. 

  • A resolution to rename the Center for Advanced Software Systems Integration to the Center for Advanced Systems and Transportation Logistics Engineering.

  • A resolution approving the merging of the individual schools of Dance, Film and Theater into a single School of Dance, Film and Theater in the College of Fine Arts.
  • A resolution recommending the adoption of the Ohio University Foundation investment policy, which was adopted by the Foundation in February, and empowering the Foundation Investment Committee to act on its behalf in accordance with this policy.

  • A resolution recommending the disposition of Real Property at 75-81 Norwhich Avenue, in Columbus, Ohio.