Opinion: Kent State shows optimism despite Akron’s recent cuts


Austin Bennett

Austin Bennett

As the state continues to decrease funding for higher education, colleges and universities face difficult decisions to maintain affordability.

In May, the University of Akron’s President Scott Scarborough said many of Ohio’s state universities are likely to disappear over the next 50 years.

Scarborough’s vision is to join Ohio State, Miami University and the University of Cincinnati as the top four public universities in the state.

In response, the presidents of Cleveland State University, Kent State University, Youngstown State University and the Northeast Ohio Medical University wrote a joint letter to tell Scarborough he was wrong.

“Our view of the future of public higher education in Ohio is much more optimistic, and is based on the remarkable contributions of all of our region’s public universities,” the letter states, according to The Plain Dealer.

“We believe Northeast Ohio’s future competitiveness requires the individual and collective resources of all of our public universities,” the presidents wrote. “We are setting our sights on a future that includes not just a few elite universities, but many public universities that are innovative, entrepreneurial and productive.”

On July 10, weeks after Scarborough made the bold prediction, the University of Akron announced the elimination of 215 faculty positions and the baseball program. The university also cut ties with E.J. Thomas Hall.

“The most painful, but necessary, reduction is the abolishment of filled positions. We are working hard to make sure that our colleagues whose positions are being eliminated are shown the respect and courtesy they deserve. We owe them our thanks for their service to this great University,” said Scarborough, in a letter to the faculty, staff and students.

These massive cuts came as a result of the university facing a $60 million deficit.

“There have to be more coming,” said State Rep. Greta Johnson, an alumna of the University of Akron. “I don’t know how you can run in the red for that long without scaling back. I don’t know where those cuts will be, but I am quite certain there will be additional cuts.”

The University of Akron is in the process of balancing its financial situation over the next few years, according to Lawrence Burns, vice president for advancement.

While the university cut $40 million, it still faces the ramifications of overbuilding and a declining enrollment.

“We did a lot of building in the last 10 to 15 years and now we’re paying the price for it,” said William Rich, faculty senate chairman at the University of Akron.

Burns said all of Ohio’s public universities should be concerned with the declining number of graduating seniors.

“I don’t think any university can feel confident that they won’t have to make cuts,” said State Rep. Emilia Sykes, a Kent State University alumna.

Although fewer students are enrolling in universities than in years past in northeast Ohio, Kent State University boasts an all-time high in student enrollment.

Kent State Senior Vice President for Finance and Administration Gregg Floyd said the university’s success is measured in three areas: the time it takes students to complete degrees, the GPAs of the student body and the student retention rate.

“The indicators on all three areas are favorable for Kent State,” Floyd said.

One thing we all have in common is that they all must balance a budget.

Universities must find ways to make the numbers work with the cost of living steadily increasing and state funding decreasing.

Contact Austin Bennett at [email protected].