Performance report grades Ohio schools

Michelle Poje

The problems that face colleges and universities in Ohio may be solved at Kent State in the new year, thanks to the results of a yearly study of higher education.

Results of the Ohio Board of Regent’s 2005 Performance Report for Ohio’s Colleges and Universities that were released Jan. 20 featured both good and bad news.

Enrollment rose more than 12 percent from fall 1998 to fall 2004. The growth was most significant in community and technical colleges, rising 25 percent from last year.

More students followed through with their educational goals, with more than 100,000 associate’s, bachelor’s and graduate degrees awarded. And 68 percent of freshmen who attend public institutions full-time returned to the same school after their first year.

However, the report also noted two main problems in higher education: high tuition and lack of remedial classes for incoming freshmen.

The report noted that tuition in Ohio is 45 percent higher than the national average. At two-year schools, the amount is slightly more than half at 52 percent.

“That number is just astounding,” said Charles Rickard, associate vice president of Enrollment Services. “If families can’t afford to pay for college, we have a serious problem.”

According to the Student Financial Aid Weekly Award Report, as of Jan. 30 almost $300,000 has been awarded to students for the 2005-2006 year. Rickard said of the amount, 70 percent was loans.

Sally Kandel, associate vice president of Research Planning and Institutional Effectiveness, said she fears the problems that students may encounter with the rise in tuition.

“Already I’ll see students who are working two to three jobs and going to school full-time in order to pay for it all,” Kandel said. “I don’t know how they do it.”

And, despite a rise in enrollment last year, Rickard said enrollment will now start to level out and decline as tuition grows.

“We had eight years of enrollment growth from ’96 to ’04. But now that it is dropping, we have to try to stabilize it by serving new populations,” Rickard said.

One such population is non-traditional students. Both Rickard and Kandel said Kent State is working to serve this group by initiating more evening and weekend classes, as well as online courses.

“These are students with families and jobs whose lives are not accommodating, which makes going to college difficult for them,” said Kandel. “They just want to get done.”

The report also noted a lack in preparation for college, with only 38 percent of students taking math or English remedial courses during their first year.

However, Kandel said Kent State is successful in providing remedial courses in math and English.

“It’s important to meet a student where a student needs to be met,” Kandel said. “The COMPASS test especially is a good way that Kent helps students by seeing where they are at or need to be.”

COMPASS is a computerized system that tests students on their knowledge in English, writing and math in order to determine what remedial classes, if any, they need.

Both Kandel and Rickard said the report is an essential source of information for Ohio schools.

“There are serious challenges that have come to Ohio and to this university,” Rickard said. “This report shows us what we need to do to be competitive.”

Contact public affairs reporter Michelle Poje at [email protected].