Cleveland State moves from competitive to collaborative

Jackie Mantey

Cleveland State calls for education council that includes KSU

Kent State’s Northeast Ohio neighbor, Cleveland State, extended a possibility for a helping hand to the region’s universities this month.

Cleveland State’s Board of Trustees passed a resolution calling for the Ohio General Assembly to establish a Northeast Ohio Public University Higher Education Council. If approved, Kent State will be one of four institutions working to bring a systematic approach to collaboration among the region’s universities.

The council would consist of two representatives from Cleveland State, Kent State, the University of Akron and Youngstown State.

Collaboration is not a new topic for Kent State.

“Obviously, Kent State has long supported collaborations between institutions in our region and beyond,” said University spokesman Ron Kirksey. “Examples include everything from NEOUCOM to joint Ph.D.s and other academic programs with regional universities.”

Although these universities already have numerous collaborations among individual academic programs, the Northeast Ohio Public University Higher Education Council would explore collaborative efforts on a deeper level, said David Creamer, senior vice president of administration.

“Most collaborations have evolved informally,” he said. “There is a need for more structure to enhance these collaborations.”

According to Cleveland State’s resolution, which was passed by the university Oct. 5, the council would “examine opportunities for strategic and purposeful collaboration,” “explore opportunities with respect to both undergraduate and graduate academic programs” and consider ways to join together concerning issues of governance and preserving the individual identity of each institution.

Creamer said dialogue about a council designed specifically for discussion and research about collaboration has been in the works for several years, but only recently has the urgency for such a structure risen.

“The resolution is coming out of recent funding issues. Recently, the state has not been able to fund institutions of higher education as it historically has,” he said. “The role of education (in Ohio) is becoming more critical, and the funding doesn’t align with the current problem, especially with how much tuition has increased.”

Cleveland State echoed that sentiment when the resolution was passed. The university would like the current relationship between the four schools to evolve from competitive to collaborative, to help funding and increased educational opportunities.

“As an unfortunate consequence of diminishing state resources, these universities have been engaged in needless competition, which creates redundant use of resources in the region. We must move away from this model of competition to one of cooperation and partnerships,” said Timothy Cosgrove, chairman of Cleveland State’s Board of Trustees.

“Despite a record of basic collaboration among these four universities, there exists a need to examine and explore a deeper level of cooperation among us to effectuate a total shift from a competitive to a collaborative environment. This would benefit each of these universities’ students, enable a more efficient allocation of resources toward excellence and further the economic development and competitiveness of the Northeast Ohio region.”

Kent State has not yet reached a decision about how or if it would be involved with the council, but Kirksey said he’s sure there will be meetings to discuss it when the opportunity arises.

“We will be studying the CSU resolution. Right now, we don’t have anything to say on possible actions we might take. When those involved have a chance to react, we will take a position,” he said.

The first opportunity, he said, might be the Kent State Board of Trustees meeting Nov. 8, when Creamer said the board will also most likely discuss another element to the collaboration puzzle.

“We abide by the governor’s policies. The new governor will deeply affect how Kent State goes about making administrative and budgeting decisions,” he said, mentioning the two candidates’ contrasting plans for higher education.

The Cleveland State resolution also calls for the state to supply adequate financial support for the group to conduct analysis and research, which in turn would be reported back to the General Assembly and governor within 18 months of its installation.

Contact administration reporter Jackie Mantey at [email protected]

ALL IN THE NUMBERS

According to a September 2006 National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education report:

• The student’s share of college tuition and fees nationwide has risen 375 percent in current dollars since 1983.

According to the Ohio Board of Regents:

• Government funding of higher education in Ohio dropped from about $6,500 per student in 2001 to $4,700 in 2003 to 2004, while college tuition continues to rise.