Four years of change

DKS Editors

Four years ago, four of us arrived at Kent State ready to begin our freshman year alongside the rest of our classmates. We sat in the M.A.C. Center during Week of Welcome as the university’s new president, Lester Lefton, proclaimed us the “Centennial Class.” The university was new to us, and we found things we liked and didn’t like as the year progressed.

Now, four years later, we see changes all around at the university. Kent State is a lot different now than it was then, that’s for sure — but is it better or worse?

On the good side, the university renovated Franklin Hall, Oscar Ritchie Hall and Dix Stadium and made plans to upgrade several other buildings in the next few years. The university should look a lot better in a few years.

Downtown looks a lot different now, too, thanks to Ron Burbick and the Phoenix Project. And the university and city have plans to make Kent look a lot nicer in the future.

The university also took a big step in awarding domestic partner benefits to its faculty last year. It was good to see the university finally join other universities across the country.

The biggest plus in the past four years was the approval of the College of Public Health. Public health is a growing field, and jobs are abundant. The new college should draw in all kinds of good students in the next couple years.

All those changes have come along with record enrollment and retention numbers. And if the university keeps drawing in good students, Kent State’s reputation should continue to grow.

But there have been bad things, too. College Fest 2009 was a major black eye for Kent State, and it was made worse by the university’s slow response. The university also has slipped behind its rival, the University of Akron, in terms of marketing.

It’s also clear that the university needs to do a better job offering students financial aid.

With the state of the economy, students are struggling to afford the costs of college. Those enrollment and retention numbers will drop if students can’t pay their various bills. And it goes beyond tuition — room and board costs have skyrocketed in our four years. University officials either need to freeze those costs or offer more financial assistance.

Some colleges are also requiring higher numbers of credit hours to graduate, which will make it harder to graduate in four years. That needs to be addressed — the university should establish a uniform number of credit hours to make a four-year graduation attainable for everyone.

Finally, the university must address the growing issue of overcrowding. The past two years, students have had to triple up in dorms or live with resident assistants.

That’s unacceptable. Either more dorms are needed, or the university should allow freshmen and sophomores to live off campus. That’s a cheaper alternative for students anyway.

Altogether, we like some of the changes made in the past four years and are excited to see how some plans turn out.

But four years isn’t a long time — while we see some changes, a lot of the university remains the same. There are certainly some problems the university still needs to address, and we’d like to see them addressed by our 10-year reunion.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.