$440 per-credit-hour fee instituted to pay back Kent State’s $170 million debt

Rex Santus

In the wake of last week’s protests at University Library, Gregg Floyd, senior vice president for finance and administration, said the answers he has to questions about the new course overload fee may not be ones students will accept.

The new credit-hour fee, a common surcharge at public universities, is the highest in the state of Ohio, at $440.

“I wish I could give you all kinds of great scientific justifications [for the figures], but the bottom line was we were trying to come up with enough money that we could make the investments [we need to make] … within the limits we were permitted to do,” Floyd said. “Please understand that the motivation behind all of this is preservation of academic program quality.”

Floyd said the $440 per-credit-hour fee — charged with each credit hour a student registers over 17 hours — was instituted to assist in paying back the university’s $170 million bond loan. The loan was approved at the March Board of Trustees meeting; the money will be used to renovate and improve campus buildings.


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“The state, honestly, has not had the ability to adequately fund maintenance on [our] buildings, let alone any new buildings,” Floyd said about the $170 million loan. “The likelihood of that happening anytime soon is not likely at all. So it comes back to us to solve this problem ourselves.”

Floyd said the loan requires an annual repayment of $11 million, and the fee is one of the ways the university is ensuring it will be able to make that annual payment.

“We’re going in and borrowing $170 million,” Floyd said. “We’re trying to get into the market when it’s effective to do so, and as soon as we get into the market and borrow the money, then the need to repay [that debt] starts ticking right away.”

Floyd said the university’s administration was not able to charge an all-inclusive student fee to pay back the loan, so officials tried to decide a way to charge students fairly and responsibly.

“It’s certainly not intended to be a penalty,” Floyd said. “It’s a very difficult decision to determine how and who is going to pay the loan. Equity was the primary consideration that was brought to a lot of the discussion. This was, in our collective judgment, the most fair. It was not intended to be punitive by any means.”

As for the credit-cap number of 17 credit hours, Provost Todd Diacon said he could not explain why the figure was chosen but said it was “fairly common” among public universities.

“I wasn’t here when they set those levels, but that’s not, in my experience at other universities in other states, an unusual level at all,” Diacon said. “But it involves a calculation of what [the resources are] that it takes to offer these extra credits to someone … I don’t know exactly why we chose 18, I’m sorry I can’t answer that.”

At Diacon’s previous university of employment, University of Massachusetts Amherst, there is no credit-hour cap.

Floyd said, to his knowledge, students, faculty or anyone else who would be directly affected by the new fee were not consulted before the fee was implemented.

“We were trying to make sure we got the decisions made as quickly as we could, and I’m not using that as a justification,” Floyd said. “We wanted to make sure we got into the markets while the markets were favorable, and right now the markets are very favorable.”

Since the outbreak of student petitions and protests, President Lester Lefton has not accepted the opportunity for an interview with the Daily Kent Stater.

At the March Board of Trustees meeting, when asked how much money students would have to pay for an extra credit, Lefton said the new fee could range anywhere from $270 to $440, depending on the course, campus and respective class rank.

Floyd said this information is incorrect. The charge is always $440; Floyd said there is no $270 fee. There is no credit-hour surcharge at the regional campuses. He could not comment on Lefton’s statement. Lefton has yet to respond to inquiries about the inaccuracy of his statement.

Floyd said he appreciated the “sincerity and legitimacy” of the protesters’ message, but said the possibility of the Board of Trustees repealing the fee is doubtful.

“The board is in the power to do as it thinks best,” Floyd said. “I know they gave a great deal of thought to this before they made their decision to affirm … to say it’s irrevocable would be wrong, but it’s pretty unlikely that it would be [repealed]. It would leave a problem that we need to address unresolved.”

Contact Rex Santus at [email protected].