Ohio University

Strategies for scholarship and aid optimization discussed at January Board of Trustees meetings

Published: January 15, 2021 Author: Staff reports

The Ohio University Board of Trustees approved a new environmental science and sustainability degree program and discussed new strategies for scholarship and aid optimization during its meetings Jan. 14-15.

The Board also received financial and academic planning updates. In addition, Ohio University President M. Duane Nellis discussed the University’s COVID-19 response and plans for the spring semester as part of his report to the Board.

The meetings were conducted online in accordance with Ohio House Bill 404, which allows for public meetings to be conducted in an online environment due to the COVID-19 pandemic through July 1, 2021.

New environmental science and sustainability degree

The Board approved a new Bachelor of Science in Environmental Science and Sustainability degree in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Environmental and Plant Biology.

This multidisciplinary program provides scientific knowledge of the natural world and the living organisms that inhabit it, as well as the social sciences at the core of sustainability. Students will learn the scientific principles that underlie environmental issues, the impact of human actions, and the public policies and regulations that influence those actions. The program is unique in its inter- and multi-disciplinary approach and draws major requirements and electives from courses and expertise in 10 departments across the College of Arts and Sciences and the Voinovich School.

Present facilities and staff resources are sufficient to support 50 students in the program, which was approved by the University Curriculum Council in November.

Financial update

University leadership provided an update on OHIO’s Fiscal Year 2021 budget forecast and multi-year budget planning. This included emphasis on the impact of COVID-19 on the University’s current-year revenues and expenses, including changes in state operating support and net tuition and fees.

Leadership also provided the current state of OHIO’s incremental COVID-19 budget based on changes in grant awards and allowable expenses. Other details included multi-year revenue assumptions through FY26, FY22 budget planning strategies and cash-flow modeling.

Academic Planning and Strategy update

University leadership provided an overview of academic planning and strategy initiatives that began in Fall 2020, which will culminate in March 2021 in a series of recommendations related to academic offerings, academic structure, and associated policy, process and practice, along with recommendations related to international programs and services.

This review included an explanation of new strategies for scholarship and aid optimization adopted by the Strategic Enrollment Executive Committee, as well as discussion by national higher education experts.

Ohio University Completion Plan update

The Board adopted Ohio University’s strategic completion plan 2020 update. The plan includes updates to the University’s continued emphasis on first-year retention and graduation rates, attention to the OHIO Guarantee+ program, the reimagined OHIO BRICKS general education plan, and the Inclusive Excellence Campus Index Framework. The plan will be submitted to the Ohio Department of Higher Education.

Tuition, fee and rate increases

The Board approved a fee schedule for a pair of programs in the College of Health Sciences and Professions. The schedule calls for new fees for the Athletic Training Residency for Athletic Training Certificate and the Doctor of Athletics Training programs.

Retirement vendor change

Human Resources leadership provided an update on the recent changes to retirement plan vendor options for the Alternative Retirement Plan (ARP), 403(b), and 457(b) retirement plans.

Eligible faculty and staff may opt to enroll in alternative retirement plans in lieu of the State Teachers Retirement System of Ohio or Ohio Public Employee Retirement System. Four vendors were recently selected through a competitive bidding process to offer services for three retirement plans along with a fifth vendor remaining as an option for one of them. Faculty and staff who were not using one of the selected vendors were required to change to the new vendors by Nov. 1, 2020.

In other business, the Board:

  • Approved changing the name of the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Classics and World Religions to the Department of Classics and Religious Studies.
  • Approved emeriti status for retiring individuals who have rendered dedicated service to Ohio University and have been recommended by their colleagues, deans, and/or supervisors.
  • Suspended six degree programs in the Patton College of Education (Ph.D. degree in Cultural Studies in Education, M.S. degree in Hospitality and Tourism, B.S. degree in German Education, M.E. degree in Critical Studies in Education, M.E. degree in Blended Early Childhood and Special Education, and M.S. degree in Professional Tennis Management) and one in the College of Arts and Sciences (B.A. degree in German). Course instruction will continue to allow currently-enrolled students to finish their degrees.
  • Approved a program review of the Russ College of Engineering and Technology’s Mechanical Engineering program.
  • Received the annual remediation report, including the number of enrolled students that require remedial education, the cost of remedial course work, and related data.
  • Received an update on the restructuring of Russ LLC boards associated with the Russ Research Center in Beavercreek, Ohio.
  • Received an update on the Ohio University Foundation’s revised endowment spending policy. The revision provides an opportunity for the Foundation to provide increased support to the University from underwater accounts.
  • Approved a memorandum of agreement for the Ohio University Foundation, pursuant to the Board’s policy on affiliated entities. The memorandum outlines the existing relationship between the two entities and provides flexibility for continued successful collaborations.
  • Received updates on the disposition of four University properties, Pilcher House, Cambridge Center, Hanging Rock Child Development Center, and the land housing the Athens County Public Library.
  • Approved an increase in the purchase price of property at 66 University Terrace from $375,000, which the Board approved in 2019, to $380,000 to accommodate a new water line installation.
  • Approved a 25-year easement for a new water line installation on the Athens Campus.
  • Approved a 25-year easement for the Belmont Water and Sewer District for a sewer line placement at the Eastern Campus.
  • Approved a resolution updating details of the total acreage for surplus property owned by the University in Hanging Rock, Ohio.
  • Approved a 25-year easement for National Gas and Oil Cooperative for a new pipeline installation at the Zanesville Campus.
  • Approved the FY20 Efficiency Report, including a new section detailing the fiscal impacts of COVID-19 on FY20 results and the FY21 budget, distribution of CARES Act funding, and other University actions and initiatives related to COVID-19. The report has already been submitted to the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
  • Renamed the building at 169 West Union Street, formerly known as the Human Resources Training Center, as the Medical Education Center. The building will house academic and administrative support units of the Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine.

The full agenda for the Jan. 14-15 Board of Trustees meetings can be found on the Trustees’ website.