New tuition increase proposed

Rachel Abbey

Kent State administrators introduced a tentative plan to improve technology and the learning environment at a Board of Trustees meeting yesterday.

The cost? A possible rise in tuition.

Kent State is considering adding $100 to every student’s tuition for the next five years to fund technology-related programs and projects at the Kent campus, said David Creamer, vice president for Administration. Historically, tuition was not used for new programs, but a lack in funding at the state level may force the university to change its ways.

The university needs to invest about $100 million to improve the outdated classrooms and buildings of the 1960s, Creamer said. The tuition increase would generate about $10 million a year.

“When we bring you to campus, we obviously show you the best,” Creamer said to the Board of Trustees, pointing to a picture of a high-tech computer set-up with a large monitor. He flipped the picture to a shot of a typical classroom, filled with rows of the wooden single desks students are familiar with.

“Our classrooms look the way they were constructed,” he said. “The furniture is the same, the wall treatment is the same.

“You can see some of the advanced technology we have,” he said, jokingly, as he showed a shot of a dirty blackboard and an old projector at the front of a classroom.

The trustees learned a little about the differences between modern college students and college students of the past. The administration was looking at the way students learn best so they can move the university in that direction.

Today’s students are tech-savvy multitaskers with short attention spans, said Pete Goldsmith, vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Affairs.

“My daughter left us to go work on a paper. I went to go see the progress of this paper. She had a CD on, AIM was on her screen and the cell phone was ringing,” Goldsmith said. “And she thought she was making good progress. Times have changed.”

Students want structure and rules, but they like the chance to experiment and see how lessons relate to them in the real world, he said. Features such as a 24/7 learning network will be even more important to future students than current ones. Six-year-olds, the next generation of college students, spend as much time on a computer as they do outside.

“As you can see, control, alt, delete is as basic as A, B, C,” Goldsmith said. “This generation is always on, always connected.”

Enrollment growth in certain programs, such as nursing, fashion design and journalism, have exceeded the university’s expectations, Creamer said. These programs will need to expand to serve students, another consideration in this possible plan.

Right now, the university wants input from trustees, faculty and students before moving forward with the plan, Creamer said. Anywhere from 2/3 to 3/4 of the funds would be distributed according to academic departments’ proposals.

It’s also important to know if students consider campus and program improvements worth the extra tuition, he said.

Contact administration reporter Rachel Abbey at [email protected].