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Board approves plans to implement guaranteed tuition, FY 2014 budget

The Ohio University Board of Trustees discussed and approved plans to implement a guaranteed tuition model, the fiscal year 2014 budget and initiatives to improve the physical infrastructure of the institution at meetings on the Athens campus Thursday and Friday.

The Board adopted a resolution to move forward with a guaranteed tuition program in an effort to help promote affordability and transparency regarding the cost of an OHIO education. The resolution is the culmination of nearly a year of shaping the proposal through discussions with constituent senates, the campus community, the Board and representatives from the Ohio legislature.

Language to allow universities in Ohio to pursue a guaranteed tuition strategy is currently part of Substitute House Bill 59 and must be approved by the legislature before OHIO can finalize any plans. Should that approval happen, the University's Guaranteed Tuition Implementation Team – which includes student, faculty, and staff representation – will work to further refine the model with the goal of transitioning to guaranteed tuition at OHIO by no later than Fall 2015.

The guarantee, as currently envisioned, would cover tuition and the general fee, room and board, most course fees and technology, orientation and graduation fees. The total price would be set each year by the Board and remain constant for four continuous years, or 120 credit hours, for all incoming in‐state full‐time undergraduate students on the Athens campus who are part of a degree or licensure-seeking program.

Executive Vice President and Provost Pam Benoit said during a joint meeting of the Resources and Academics committees on Thursday that a guaranteed tuition approach will allow families to budget for college with more certainty, particularly since financial aid will hold its value better than under the current system. It also provides an incentive to graduate in four years, although the proposed plan makes provisions for students with extenuating circumstances that will extend the tuition guarantee beyond the four-year cutoff.

An additional change in university operations, namely the structure of the FY 2014 budget, was also discussed. The FY 2014 budget marks a transition to the use of Responsibility Centered Management (RCM) principles, which move much of the budgeting authority to the revenue-generating academic units.  

The University has been preparing for the use of an RCM budgeting approach for more than a year. The past 13 months have been dedicated to putting the necessary infrastructure in place and working with the planning units to ensure a smooth transition. 

Chad Mitchell, the University's budget director, underscored that the FY2014 budget supports OHIO's strategic priorities. Resources have been allocated to promote affordability for students through additional financial aid dollars, to support faculty and staff compensation and to address important capital needs.

Thursday's joint meeting was also an opportunity for the Board to review the University's debt capacity and long-term capital needs. Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding presented a scenario that detailed the impact of taking on an additional $100 million in debt over the next six years to go toward the Capital Improvement Plan.

This would lift the total amount of debt to $585 million, and would enable the University to renovate more academic buildings and reduce deferred maintenance in a more comprehensive way than the currently allocated amount. Based on supportive feedback from the trustees, Golding indicated that he would return with a more detailed plan about how the additional funds would be invested at their August meeting.

In the Academics committee, Benoit presented the results of the annual faculty promotion and tenure process. Twenty-two faculty were promoted to the rank of professor and 31 were awarded the rank of associate professor with tenure. Benoit praised the accomplishments of the faculty who advanced in rank and noted the significance of reaching these important professional milestones.

The University's efforts to promote undergraduate student success were outlined by David Descutner, dean of University College and executive vice provost for undergraduate education. Descutner outlined the overarching University goals for student success, which include improvement in course completion, persistence/retention and graduation rates as well the ability to track placement of graduates. The presentation included specific measures that are in place to help achieve these goals and a discussion of the network of units involved in implementing student success strategies.

The Academics committee also heard from Craig Cornell, vice provost for enrollment management, who provided an update on the preliminary size and composition of the 2013 entering class. Cornell reported that in freshmen applications, admits and housing deposits the University has experienced increases over last year ranging from 12 percent to 19 percent. Increases also were seen in the areas of transfer, international and multicultural students.

The Resources committee focused on the construction projects slated for the next year as part of the FY 2014 Capital Improvement Plan. This includes such major renovations as phase one of the Housing Development Plan, phase two of the Scripps College of Communication, the Multipurpose Pavilion and a new facility to replace the current Lausche Heating Plant.

The new heating plant represents the biggest project on this slate. The total project cost will be about $70 million, a reduction from the original estimate of $100 million as a result of refined engineering plans and the decision to use a design/build delivery method.  

In a presentation to the committee, Executive Director of Facilities Management Mike Gebeke explained that the new plant will run on natural gas instead of coal, a move that will reduce the carbon footprint of the University significantly and bring it into compliance with EPA regulations. Construction should be complete by spring 2016.

In other business, the Board approved:

·  A resolution to approve the fiscal year 2014 budgets for the University's Athens campus, Auxiliary Operations, Regional campuses and Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (OU-HCOM).

·  A resolution that combines Independent and Distance Learning into eCampus Undergraduate Programs resulting in a single, standard rate; converts the rates for the Program for the Incarcerated to an hourly Correctional Education rate; and reduces the Specialized Services/Materials fee for the MBA Online program.

·  A resolution authorizing the president to continue to implement the pickup of the employees' contributions to the OPERS and STRS for all eligible employees at the percentage rates authorized by law.

·  A resolution to approve the FY 2014 Capital Improvement Plan.

·  A resolution to authorize the University to develop construction documents, receive bids and award construction contracts for a new elevator in Haning Hall and preliminary infrastructure work related to the replacement of Lausche Heating Plant.

·  A resolution to name buildings on the OU-HCOM Dublin campus OhioHealth Medical Education Building 1 and OhioHealth Medical Education Building 2.

·  A resolution to appoint members to the Regional Coordinating Councils on all five regional campuses.

·  A resolution to give responsibility for administration and conferral of degrees under the Individual Interdisciplinary Program to the Graduate College. This includes the Master of Arts, Master of Science and Doctor of Philosophy with Individual Program of Study.

·  Resolutions to accept program reviews for the Medical Assisting Technology program on the Lancaster campus; the Applied Health Sciences and Wellness program in the College of Health Sciences and Professions; and the Department of Counseling and Higher Education, the Department of Education Studies and the Department of Teacher Education in the Patton College of Education.

·  A resolution approving the University's proposed audit plan for FY 2014.

·  Resolutions electing Roderick J. McDavis president; Stephen Golding Treasurer; and Peter C. Mather secretary for the Board of Trustees beginning July 1 through June 30, 2014.

·  A resolution to appoint Ohio University alumna Peggy Viehweger to serve on the Board as a national trustee.

·  A resolution to confer an Honorary Doctor of Public Service to Her Excellency Ambassador Tebelelo Mazile Seretse.

·  A resolution to confer an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters to Raymon B. Fogg, Sr.

During President McDavis' June 21 address to the Board of Trustees, he presented Ohio University's Core Values:
Excellence is our hallmark: outstanding people, ideas, and programs drive our educational mission.

Integrity, civility, and diversity define our community: these values guide our leadership in a global society.

Stewardship enhances our legacy: as Ohio’s first institution of public higher education, we are mindful of our accountability to the public trust.