Our View: A common ‘cents’ approach

We all know Kent State runs like a business. Public or not, students pay steep tuition bills to attend so the university can stay afloat, regardless of how much (or little) state funding the university receives or how much private fundraising it does. Students are the consumers.

Instead of just running like a business, though, Kent State has adopted a business-like strategy to reward success by implementing a merit pool for faculty members in the new contract – and we think it’s a smart move.

The premise is simple: When the university wins, the faculty wins also. If Kent State meets or exceeds its goals in the areas of retention, fundraising and research, the university’s 864 full-time, tenure-track faculty members get a slice of the profit.

For instance, to receive the fundraising bonus, Kent State must increase fundraising by $2.8 million from the previous year. If successful, the faculty would receive 2 percent of the total increase divided among them.

For just a $2.8 million increase in fundraising, that means about an extra $65 for each faculty member. That’s not counting the other bonuses the faculty could potentially receive if the university hits its targets for retention and research.

It won’t make the faculty millionaires overnight, but it will provide them an incentive to keep the university’s best interests at heart – and that’s the point. In turn, Kent State students benefit:

n Higher retention rates mean better services for students

n More research funding allows the university to hire top-notch faculty and provides students more opportunities to participate in research projects

n Fundraising increases translate to more scholarships and financial aid for students

University administrators love to pat themselves on the back for a job well done. Finally, Kent State’s big wigs are recognizing those who lay the groundwork for making university-wide improvements: the faculty.

Faculty members are the ones who spearhead a class trip to Ray’s Place for dinner. Faculty members are the ones who attend former students’ weddings. Faculty members are the ones who inspire students’ interests in liquid crystal research.

But rewarding the faculty seems like an alien concept most of the time. Hence, the reason The Chronicle, the leading higher-education publication, featured Kent State’s innovative – or common sensical – approach as one of its lead stories last week.

President Lester Lefton used the keen business sense of Yank Heisler, interim vice president for business and finance, to make the concept a reality. Heisler hails from the banking industry as a retired chairman of KeyBank.

Not all Wall Street practices should migrate to the world of higher education, but this one clearly has potential to work. We live in an incentivized society. The prospect of more George Washingtons in faculty members’ pockets might work magic – or at least spawn greater cooperation between the faculty and administration on key university initiatives.

Either way, students will reap the benefits. As consumers, that’s what we like to hear.

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