KSU may enroll more Turkish students and high school seniors

Jackie Valley

$2.7 million negotiated on European trip

It is not in ink yet, but President Lester Lefton said he expects to finalize a $2.7 million donation to the university in April.

Lefton discussed the negotiation during a meeting with student media leaders Friday that covered a wide range of topics. The negotiation was developed through a relationship forged during his European trip last summer.

Lefton said the relationship he established in Turkey yielding the $2.7 million will “renovate Van Campen, which is unused, and turn it into a facility that will benefit a group of students and Kent State.”

“We see this as an opportunity to bring a lot of international students to campus,” he said, adding it opens the doors to feed those students into undergraduate and master’s programs at Kent State.

Kenneth Cushner, executive director of international affairs, said the donation from Bahcesehir University, a private university in Turkey, will renovate Van Campen to provide living quarters for international students and create the Turkish-American Cultural Center.

“It’s designed to be a link between Turkish and American business people to teach about American and Turkish relations and to provide a home for some Turkish students when they come here,” Cushner said.

Three people from Bahcesehir were at Kent State last week to help coordinate the renovation, he said.

The project aims to bring more international students to Kent State, Cushner said, as well as increase the number of faculty exchanges.

He said between 40 and 50 students from Bahcesehir are studying at Kent State right now, and one Kent State student is in Turkey student teaching in association with Bahcesehir University.

In addition, Cushner said Bahcesehir helped coordinate conferences for the Euphrates-Tigris Initiative for Cooperation, a special project founded three years ago with Kent State and academics from Turkey, Syria and Iraq to foster collaboration in the region.

Lefton said, despite media criticism about his European trip, the trip fulfilled its purpose: establish relations at other universities.

“The trip was both very effective in (gaining) private support as well as cutting costs in Florence,” he said.

Even so, Lefton said he wishes that both the press had reported the full story and that he had stayed in cheaper places.

“The European trip was a $40,000 trip of which I paid $10,000 because I knew that I was staying at some expensive places,” he said. “The truth is, I didn’t know I was staying at such expensive places until I got there and I found ‘Holy smoke, this stuff is outrageously expensive.'”

Lefton said the remaining $30,000 was split between the $10,000 plane tickets and $20,000 for the 20 days in Europe, which paid for translators, transportation and the increased market value of the Euro.

State of Higher Education

Back in the states, Lefton has spent time working with government leaders in Ohio to offer advice before the implementation of the University System of Ohio.

In March, Gov. Ted Strickland appointed Eric Fingerhut as chancellor of higher education. Fingerhut’s 10-year master plan for higher education in the state outlining the University System is due to the Ohio General Assembly March 31.

Lefton said Strickland’s initiative called “Seniors to Sophomores” that he announced during the State of the State address last week grabs the most attention.

“Seniors to Sophomores” will give every 12th-grader in the state the option of attending a University System institution tuition-free instead of spending their senior year in high school.

“That’s a bold and visionary idea,” Lefton said. “Now, we need to see the details of how it’s going to be paid for.”

He said it is not clear yet whether the plan is related to the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option that already exists for high school students to take college classes at reduced tuition.

“He may just mean an extension of the Post-Secondary Enrollment Option, but he may mean something much grander and bolder,” he said.

Lefton said there are advantages and disadvantages to the idea, beginning with students paying less for their education.

However, Lefton said someone will have to pay to implement the program.

“The question is, we can’t just give it away,” he said. “In other words, if we replaced all the freshmen here who pay tuition with people who don’t pay tuition, we could not pay our bills.”

Lefton also said he has academic issues about bringing many high school students to a college campus.

“As a college president, quite candidly, I’m concerned about bringing 16-year-olds to a college campus with 22-year-olds who are mature men and women about to go on and face the world,” he said.

Still, Lefton said some high school students have the maturity level, but he does not understand the rush to send students to college.

“By contrast, a different kind of proposal might be for the state of Ohio to say, ‘We are going to pay for every college freshman’s tuition,'” he said. “Why rush them out of high school where they have clubs, activities, proms and other high school-related events that are special in people’s lives?

“There are other ways to bring about reduced cost of tuition.”

Contact administration reporter Jackie Valley at [email protected].