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New student system, affordability top agenda
Trustees support university?s progress on both fronts  

Apr 24, 2009  
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
the board.

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
Implementation Plan.

?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,?
he said.

Trustees praised the report for its detail, noting that the data would be a
powerful tool for attracting new students to the institution.

President?s outlook

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)


Related Links
Board of Trustees:  http://www.ohio.edu/trustees/ 

Published: Apr 24, 2009 4:57 PM  

Committee highlights 

Here are highlights from board committee meetings Thursday:

Academics Committee

Executive Provost and Vice President Kathy Krendl provided an update on several major academic initiatives, including the work of the Task Force on Centers of Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education.

In a report submitted Feb. 5, the task force reviewed all graduate and professional programs at Ohio University. Of the 88 programs, 72 were rated as excellent, very good, good or satisfactory. Eight were placed in the category of limited, and the remaining eight were identified as new and/or developing.

The review included an appeals process, allowing programs to request reconsideration by the task force if they believed that their program was incorrectly categorized. According to Krendl, 25 appeals were filed by the Feb. 23 deadline. Five of those appeals were granted, resulting in an improved rating for the programs.

Krendl said programs whose appeals were not granted had an opportunity to include a dissenting statement in the report. Krendl said discussions are under way with university deans on how to utilize the report.

The Task Force on Centers of Excellence in Graduate and Professional Education was designed, in part, to gather information that will be useful as Ohio University selects its Centers of Excellence for recommendation to the chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents. Identification of Centers of Excellence is part of the University System of Ohio's strategic plan to raise the national profile of Ohio public institutions, prioritize resources and better meet student needs.

Krendl also acknowledged the work of the Quarters to Semesters Transition Team, thanking them for the quality of their work and the dedication that they exhibited in undertaking their charge to create a blueprint for the transition.

Dean of University College David Descutner, who co-chaired the team with faculty member Thomas Carpenter, said the team efficiently carried out its mission of developing a plan that has a semester-system calendar, guidelines for student advising during the transition and a plan for converting curricula to semesters by coordinating the efforts of department coordinators on campus.

Krendl also spoke briefly about the university's plan for academic restructuring. Among other things, the plan calls for creating an academic health center that includes the College of Osteopathic Medicine and the health sciences and professions programs from the College of Health and Human Service and combining Regional Higher Education, University Outreach and University College into one college. The restructuring was put forward for a number of reasons, but none more important than to take advantage of the university's emerging areas of strength, she said.

Krendl said restructuring implementation teams would be in place by fall.

In the final segment of her presentation, Krendl told the board that for academic year 2009-10, instructional capacity related to Group I, Group II, Group IV and early retirees should not be significantly impacted by the base budget reductions taken by the academic colleges. Of the base-funded instructional positions, all full-time, tenure-track faculty positions (Group I) were retained, while a total of 11 instructional positions were eliminated in the Group II, Group IV and Early Retired categories. She pointed out that the reductions in the Group II and Group IV areas may be smaller once the hiring tied to Five Year Vision OHIO Implementation Plan funding for the new B.S.N. program is factored in. 

Krendl acknowledged that there may be some loss of instructional capacity in units that eliminated administrative positions, if the individuals in those positions contributed to instruction through adjunct work, and in the realm of Group III positions, which are funded by one-time monies on a quarter-by-quarter basis.  But she noted that the deans did their utmost to protect instructional capacity as they made their budget reductions. 

Governance Committee

The Governance Committee approved a finalized "Statement of Expectations" for the Board of Trustees, intended to improve communication flow and foster collegial relationships among board members and between the board and the university community.

"The purpose of this document is to help new trustees coming onto the board understand how we operate and to remind the other trustees of our function," Chair Norman "Ned" Dewire said.

The committee had tabled a decision to accept the statement during its January meeting in order to request additional comments from other board members and university constituents. Of concern was a line in reference to the board's relationships with external entities that read, "The board should speak with a single voice. Only the board chair is authorized to make public statements on behalf of the entire board."

Dewire said upon further review, and coupled with comments received, he felt the two statements were redundant and proposed a new passage, which read, "The board chair is the only trustee authorized to make public statements on behalf of the entire board."

Additionally, the expectations state that when commenting on board actions or deliberations, trustees must make clear they are voicing their personal opinion and not the formal opinion of the board.

"This is much better," Trustee Gene Harris said. "There's no ambiguity. It makes very clear that trustees can speak for themselves, whereas before it appeared trustees could not speak for themselves."

General Counsel John Biancamano, who crafted the document based on the best practices of peer institutions, said the expectations are not intended to prohibit trustee participation or silence members.

"These [statements of expectation] are guidelines only and should not be read as enforceable rules," he said.

Resources Committee

Members of the Resources Committee discussed the need for a new Student Information System that runs many important day-to-day functions and could essentially shut down university operations in the event of a systemwide crash.

The project, which also includes significant network upgrades, is further being driven by the fact that the company behind the current SIS has gone out of business and will no longer provide technical support after the end of the school year.

Students are expected to be the biggest beneficiaries of the new system, with upgrades that will give them 24-hour access to class registration and bill-paying functions, among a range of other improvements. Chief Information Officer Brice Bible also warned that, if the current SIS failed, the university would not be able to use systems that regulate crucial functions including those related to housing, financial aid, class registration and Blackboard.

Given these ramifications, Committee Chair Larry Schey stressed that the university needed to move forward with this project as quickly as possible. 

"This (project) is the culmination of a lot of work that we can't delay any longer," he said. "The university cannot operate without this system. It doesn't get any more mission critical than that."

Student Trustee Tracy Kelly questioned whether students have had adequate input into the decision to charge a student fee to help pay for the system and whether they had enough of an understanding of why the SIS is needed. In response, President Roderick J. McDavis emphasized that the university will make a concerted effort to communicate the benefits of the new system to the students and what the change will mean for them.

Committee members also got an update on the university's financial health, with Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur reporting that the university's Senate Bill 6 ratio had improved since last year. As a result of the improved ratio, a key measure of an institution's financial strength, the university moved up two positions as compared to other peer institutions.

He briefed the committee on the status of the university's fiscal year 2010 budget. The university has already implemented strategies -- including planning unit reductions, changes to the university's health care plan and various efficiency initiatives -- to bridge a projected deficit of more than $10 million in the next fiscal year. According to Decatur, Vision Ohio goals and strategic objectives have served as an important guide throughout the planning process.

"Our priorities are driving our planning," he said. "I think that is evident."

Members also discussed proposed increases to the tuition and non-residence surcharge for the College of Osteopathic Medicine, student fees, room and board, and the per-credit-hour rate for the master's in financial economics program offered at the Pickerington Center.

Audit Committee

The Audit Committee members heard reports on progress toward internal audits objectives and addressed issues raised in the fiscal 2008 audit.

Independent auditor Plante & Moran of Southfield, Mich., has given Ohio University an unqualified -- or clean -- opinion on its fiscal 2008 financial reports, but the report noted that Ohio University should address cash-handling procedures and cellular telephone policies.

In the university's response, Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Bill Decatur said the university is in the process of revising the cell phone policy to set a uniform amount for an allowance.

Associate Vice President for Finance Michael Angelini said the university also has started training employees about cash-collection procedures to ensure proper handling of cash, and the university is working to reduce the number of collection points.

The university also has more than 200 cash collection points for things such as ticket purchases for plays and office lunches; reducing that number would minimize risk, the auditors said.

Chief Audit Executive Kathy Gilmore also updated the audit committee on internal audits under way. In her report, she noted that fewer follow-up audits have been needed because of universitywide awareness of the Internal Audit office and a desire to improve internal controls.



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