Kent State still waiting for approved NEOUCOM bonds

Jessica White

The Ohio Board of Regents is ready to sign a $42 million bond proposal that will finance construction at the Northeastern Ohio Universities Colleges of Medicine (NEOUCOM), while Kent State’s proposal is still pending in the office of Eric Fingerhut, chancellor of the board.

Kent State has been negotiating with Fingerhut for more than a year, seeking his approval of $210 million in bonds to help finance a $250 million campus-wide renovation. The university plans to pay off the bonds using a new series of student fees that would be phased in over several years, peaking at $24 per credit hour.

At NEOUCOM, the bonds will be repaid with existing revenue from tuition and student fees with no additional cost to students. The proposal will be posted for public comment on the Ohio Board of Regents website for two weeks, after which Fingerhut said he expects to approve it. The money will finance the construction of a 77,000-square-foot research facility.

Rob Evans, spokesperson for the board, said the big difference in the two proposals is the funding method.

He said with NEOUCOM, Fingerhut didn’t need to sign off on any new fees, which makes the approval process much simpler.

“We have a consistent standard that we apply to every proposal that comes in,” Evans said. “It has to meet our Ohio strategic plan for higher education, and the response comes from how closely it meets that standard.”

But President Lester Lefton said he’s surprised Kent State is still waiting.

In an Oct.1 interview with the Daily Kent Stater editors, Lefton said he did not expect the delay of approval from Fingerhut.

“We spent over a year talking with the chancellor, and he was totally supportive of our proposal,” Lefton said. “Never before had he suggested that we would have to make concessions to move ahead.”

Evans said Fingerhut fully supports the construction plans, but is still wary of the student fee funding method.

“The renovations are a positive step for Kent’s campus — I don’t think there’s any disagreement there,” Evans said. “It’s about how to find a funding structure that works for them, that works for us and that works for the students.”

In an e-mail statement, Fingerhut said he looks forward to finding a solution that meets the university’s needs while supporting his commitments to access and affordability.

Jessica White