Lefton: Better quality of higher education key

Tim Magaw

President Lefton fields questions about his plans for Kent State during a press conference preceeding the Akron Roundtable meeting at the Tangier Restaurant yesterday. LAURA TORCHIA | THE DAILY KENT STATER

Credit: John Proppe

President Lester Lefton said there are some people who think the main concern of public universities should be to produce as many graduates as possible at the lowest price.

“But the people of Ohio deserve more than a ‘Super Wal-Mart’ approach to higher education,” Lefton said in speech during yesterday’s Akron Roundtable Luncheon at Tangier Restaurant in Akron. “I think they deserve a ‘Nordstrom’s’ approach, where everyone who walks through the door finds superb service, personal attention and top-quality products and tenure-line faculty.”

Lefton said the university has a responsibility to ensure that students are properly trained to compete in a global economy.

“Our students must be able to compete for jobs, for positions and for careers in a very different world,” he said. “We know that our students must be able to function effectively in a global workplace and a global society, for their sake and ours.”

Lefton said higher education is one of the solutions to Ohio’s poor economy, acknowledging Gov. Ted Strickland’s value for higher education.

“There could not be a more opportune time for Ohio to pursue a new level of investment in higher education,” Lefton said. “Without it, Ohio cannot hope to resume its former place as a national center for innovation.”

Following the speech, Lefton answered submitted questions from the audience, one of which asked him about Strickland’s proposal to increase university funding in exchange for a tuition freeze.

“I like bargains. We’re very supportive of the governor’s approach,” Lefton said, adding that although this is an important step for higher education in Ohio, the “devil is in the details.”

Lefton also answered a question about Kent City councilman Ed Bargerstock’s idea of taxing the university. Although Lefton said he questioned the legality of such a tax, he said the university and the student body already provide the city with significant revenue.

“I think we’re doing our fair share,” Lefton said, adding that he isn’t particularly worried about it.

Kathleen Rice, president of the Akron Roundtable board of trustees, said Lefton was chosen as a speaker because Kent State is a key institution in the area. She said the speakers that are chosen are those that fit the Roundtable’s slogan, “bringing the world to Akron.”

“They’re leaders of the community that are providing ideas that are important to the region,” she said.

The next speaker at the Akron Roundtable is John C. Green, director of the Ray C. Bliss Institute of Applied Politics.” His topic will be “The Faith Factor: How Religion Influences American Elections.” The speech and luncheon will be April 19 at 11:45 a.m. at Tangier Restaurant in Akron.

Contact administration reporter Tim Magaw at [email protected].