Lefton presents draft to Trustees

Ben Wolford

President Lester Lefton presented a draft of University System of Ohio accountability and affordability reports to the Board of Trustees before they were approved at yesterday’s meeting.

The reports include statistical information about Kent State, such as current and projected enrollment and graduation rates, as well as tabulations of out-of-pocket expenses for students with different levels of financial need.

The Ohio Board of Regents, under Chancellor Eric Fingerhut, requested the reports for purposes of budgeting and setting goals – goals Lefton called unsupported.

“There is no plan to help us, to assist us in achieving (the University System of Ohio’s goals),” Lefton said. “I think (Fingerhut’s) intention is a good intention.”

In fact, most of the goals Fingerhut has laid out as part of his 10-Year Master Plan for Ohio’s universities and colleges – things like increasing enrollment, graduation and freshmen with high test scores – are in line with points on Lefton’s Excellence Agenda.

But Lefton expressed concern that the Board of Regents’ goals are too detached from the individuals who will be achieving them, namely faculty.

“Speaking for the faculty, there’s a little bit of a disconnect between all this goal-setting and the people who do most of the work around here,” Lefton said. “I’m on board with the chancellor. The ideas are good.

“I’m worried that there’s no new money. I’m worried that if we have to take any kind of budget cut, our ability to deliver on these goals is diminished dramatically.”

Moreover, statistics tallied in the accountability report will be used as metrics for state funding.

“These metrics, according to what we have been told, will be setting our budget,” Lefton said. “If we don’t make the metric, I guess we could be penalized in our budget.”

Instead of enrollment determining the State Share of Instruction allocated to Ohio universities, as is the case now, 65 percent of the allocation would be derived from graduation rate performance.

The other 35 percent would come from the other metrics, such as the number of students getting internships or co-ops, the number of students 25 years old or older and the amount of federally financed research spending per capita.

Charlene Reed, secretary to the Board of Trustees and special assistant to the president, spoke more optimistically about the University System of Ohio accountability standards.

“I think we all have gotten the sense that it’s a process,” she said. “They’re looking at (the metrics) with us, and they’re not seeing this as a punitive thing at all, but more developmental.”

In other actions, the board approved:

&bull Authority to restructure more than $150 million in variable rate bonds. The decline of financial markets led to an increase in the interest on the bonds.

&bull $1 million for the construction of facilities to relocate Kent State’s fleet services in a single building to improve efficiency.

&bull The construction of a transit shelter at the Geauga campus to encourage people to use public transportation.

&bull The renovation of the Geauga campus library to improve space efficiency. It will also include the addition of a cyber café.

&bull A strategic master plan to improve energy consumption by at least 20 percent by 2014 in accordance with House Bill 251.

&bull The negotiation of agreements for oil and gas wells on Kent State properties, including the university airport and golf course.

Contact administration reporter Ben Wolford at [email protected].