During the report of the Cleveland State University Faculty Senate president at the May 1 meeting, President Bill Bowen focused on the $17 million operating budget deficit.
“I recognize and I deeply regret that this is all going to cause some anxiety,” Bowen said. “but in my mind, we all deserve openness and transparency because this is our university.”
Bowen said that the deficit resulted from low enrollment and the board of trustees’ mandate for a balanced budget. Last year, he said, the faculty senate structural solutions committee convened to compile ways to fill the deficit gap. He added that this year the faculty senate planning and budget advisory committee took on the issue too.
He said the solution will involve increasing revenue, decreasing expenditures or some combination of the two. He explained that the operating budget paid for things such as gas, electricity, salary, computers and keeping the school running. However, as it stands now the university spends more money to educate students than it brings in.
“We’re not simply employees here, we are the university,” Bowen said. “While I remain very optimistic about the future of this place, I think sometimes it has to be tempered by a little bit of tough-minded realism.”
Near the close of the meeting Cleveland State President Harlan Sands delivered his report to the senate. He said about 400 persons attended the town hall meetings to discuss the new strategic priorities.
Sands also noted that he met with the governor and the lieutenant governor twice and feels encouraged by the first increase in the State Share of Instruction (SSI) component in years. The SSI is the main subsidy Ohio provides to offset the instructional costs of public institutions.
To conclude the meeting, Student Government Association President Samia Shaheen gave her last report. She said SGA registered 250 students to vote through the “Vike the Vote” drive. SGA also established a lounge for first-generation college students in Berkman Hall. The organization also worked with various faculty members to create the textbook affordability survey and implemented the textbook hero awards for professors who used open access materials in their classes.
Berinthia R. LeVine, executive director of the CSU Foundation, announced at the March board of trustees meeting that campus pantry Lift Up Vikes! will receive a $1-million gift from Char and Chuck Fowler, The Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, to move from the rec center and into a new space in Berkman Hall.
“Creating a resource pantry and resource center,” LeVine said. “The additional $700,000 will go to an emergency grant fund for our students.”
“As if this hasn’t been a good enough month,” Cleveland State President Harlan M. Sands said. “This is even a surprise, I think to our board chair. I’ve been keeping this one fairly close hold.”
LeVine noted the need for this type of expansion became apparent after the university received a $260,000 Dash Emergency Grant from the Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates to provide grants to students starting in fall 2017.
“We found out how needy our student body was,” LeVine said. “We had so many requests in the first three months that we had to slow down what we were granting out.”
Levine said that they’ll be able to hit the ground running and that pay outs will be quick.
The university has already made four major announcements in one month. These include two new university partnerships with Cuyahoga Community College, and Lorain County Community College. Additionally, a $5-million gift from Parker Hannifin will provide free housing for up to 80 students from the Cleveland Metropolitan School District and the university dedicated the Weston Ideation Lab.
To build off the new partnerships between the university and Cuyahoga Community College and Lorain County Community College Rob Spademan, chief marketing officer, announced to the board that Cleveland State University will no longer send denial letters to applicants.
“Now, instead of saying you’re denied, we say welcome to DegreeLink or welcome to UPeXpress to CSU,” Spademan said. “There were over 500 students we had denied before we announced that program in Cuyahoga County.”
DegreeLink and UPeXpress will be able to act as a spring board for these students to start at Cuyahoga Community College and Lorain County College who know they want to get their Bachelors at Cleveland State University. Spademan noted they are reviewing the list of those 500 students and beginning to reach out and recommend these programs.
Spademan said changing the approach from a rejection to offering these new paths will increase enrollment in the long term. Noting that advisers from Cleveland State University will monitor these students from the beginning of their academic careers at these community colleges to make sure they are ready to transfer here.
In other action, the board closed out their meeting with a unanimous vote to award former Cleveland State University president Michael Schwartz with an honorary degree.
Cleveland State University faculty had a slew of questions about the university’s involvement and obligations if Cleveland had been selected for Amazons second headquarters.
The city of Cleveland released the unredacted 220-page proposal by court order in March, nearly 18 months after the bid was submitted to Amazon.
Faculty Senate President Bill Bowen said he’s had some questions about the bid and highlighted two key points; the proposal did not have approval from the board of trustees and it was not an open bid.
“I was kind of surprised when I read that there are these 10-acres sitting,” said one faculty member. “How do we somehow have 10-acres extra?”
President Bowen said in the documents recently released “they had some property laid out and envisioned over on Payne, between 22ndand 24th, and they drew buildings in there that aren’t there now.”
“It’s not a property or building we have?” asked the faculty member.
Provost Jianping Zhu replied, “it’s not within the 70-acres we have now, no.”
Another attendee asked about the process of the university’s involvement. He was concerned about the possibility of being committed to something and finding out about it in the news after the fact.
Zhu said the proposal was kept secret for confidentiality and other reasons, and it was just a possibility should Amazon choose Cleveland.
Zhu confirmed that Amazon contacted the university to discuss some general concepts, but noted that JobsOhio, a nonprofit corporation formed to promote economic development, led the process.
President Bowen said decisions involving real estate tend to happen during the executive session of the board of trustees meetings.
“I’m on the board and Professor Duffy is on the board,” Bowen said. “But when they go into executive session, we’re not privy to that in many cases.”
The sustainability initiative at Cleveland State University kept 287 tons of waste out of landfills in 2017. To put that into context, the largest animal on earth is the blue whale, and it weighs about half that amount, according to the Marine Mammal Center.
The Cleveland State Office of Sustainability began in 2016 as a way to bring all the various green initiatives on campus under one umbrella. One of its first campaigns was to compost the food waste from campus dining.
The composting facility, Full Cycle Organics, launched the same year and offered Cleveland State a three-week trial to try its service. In 2017, the Student Center, the Wolstein Center and Elements Bistro provided 20 tons of waste for compost.
Jennifer McMillin, the director of sustainability, noted that in addition to food waste being diverted from landfills, the nutrients from that food go back into soil when it is composted and that is important to sustainable farming.
That same year Cleveland State began to switch the cutlery and plates for catering to plant based compostable alternatives. Full Cycle Organics can compost the organic waste in two weeks, some of which returns to Cleveland State to use for campus landscaping.
In addition to food waste, the school also recycles items such as batteries and tires. McMillin said when she became the director of sustainability in 2016, she relabeled the recycling bins around campus and started a plastic bag collection service in the library.
The latest campaign from the office of sustainability is the “Skip the Straw” campaign. As of November 2018, straws are only given when ordering a frozen drink, otherwise they are only available by request across campus eateries.
McMillin said her office is already planning new initiatives in cooperation with other departments on campus that focusing on energy and emissions, buildings and grounds, campus operations, education and culture, and consumption and waste.
The Cleveland State University Board of Trustees moved its first meeting of the semester, Jan. 17, to room 313 of the student center to accommodate the 100 or so people in attendance. The main themes of the meeting focused on student enrollment and retention.
The board discussed strategic steps to implement President Harland Sands’ vision for Cleveland State University. The board welcomed many speakers, some to report on the university’s financial wellness as well as representatives from the Student Government Association and the School of Nursing.
Among the many speakers, Rob Spademan, chief marketing officer, noted that enrollment for spring is down. “These are the continuing themes I’ve talked about in some of the previous meetings,” Spademan said. “We’re struggling a bit on the international front with graduate students and the transfer student piece continues to be weighed down by [fewer] students coming out of the community colleges.”
Dean of the College of Graduate Studies Nigamanth Sridhar, Ph.D., assured the board that the dip in international students at Cleveland State is symptomatic of a national trend, saying that 2018 is the first time the United States has seen a net dip in the number of international students.
“To put it into context of the number of international applications, going from 1,100 to 575, we’re only down by 31 students,” Sridhar said. He said overall enrollment is down only 5 percent as a result of increased efforts to encourage accepted domestic students to enroll.
Sridhar explained that Cleveland State could see an increase in graduate school applications next year because of the advent of a centralized application system, similar to the Common app, which Cleveland State has just enrolled in.
In an effort to get more students to enroll from community colleges, Sands announced that Cleveland State has entered into the Northeast Ohio Regional Compact. “This is something that came out of some legislation in Columbus to incentivize us as a region to work together on efficiencies and partnerships among the community colleges and the four-year institutions,” Sands said. Cleveland State and Youngstown State University will host the presidents from the nine other schools in February to discuss ways the schools can work in collaboration with each other.
Sands said that the mechanism behind enrollment must follow the student to retain them. “It’s a holistic approach to who are the right students for CSU,” Sands said. He stressed that from the time a student is contacted there needs to be a plan to get them to graduation.
“It’s not as simple as hitting a number on the front-end and then turning it over to somebody else inside the organization who’s then responsible for those students to progress,” Sands said.
To address the approximately 600 students Cleveland State loses between freshman and sophomore year Sands launched a graduation coach mentorship program. Sands explained the preliminary findings, of the 200 students most at risk who received coaches, 93.8 percent have been retained so far, which is on par with the retention rate for the general student body. Sands will give updates as the program continues.
Enrollment and retention, often considered indicators of an institution’s quality by administrators and others, also affect an institutions revenue. When President Sands took office, Huron Consulting performed an external financial review to give Sands an idea of what he had to work with upon accepting the position.
Shandy Husmann of Huron Consulting said that one of the key conclusions of his report was “enrollment decline continues to affect the revenue line,” Husmann said. “Expenses increased at a slightly greater rate.” He noted that Cleveland State is a tuition-dependent school and proposed 10 recommendations to more proactively monitor the flow of funds in the future.
David Gunning, board chair, stressed that overall the institution was in good shape. “The 2 percent decrease in revenue is something that we have to look at hard; we can’t continue that trend,” Gunning said. “As President Sands said, we can’t cut our way to prosperity. We have to enhance revenue in every step of this institution. Obviously, number one is enrollment and retention, but there are lots of other things we can look to to enhance revenue.”
One avenue to enhance revenue comes from investing in schools that have reached their capacity. During the presentation by the School of Nursing, Dr. Timothy Gasper, dean of the School of Nursing, noted that they are turning away 40 percent of the qualified nurses that apply, in part because of issues of clinical placement.
“This is a school that’s needed more resources over the years,” Sands said. “If this is a school we’d like to grow and invest in, it’s manpower intensive given the skill set, but it is an example of how we can pivot the resources to where they need to be.”
Board members Deborah Vesy and Joseph Roman noted that their project, Workforce Connect, has centered its current focus on the common workforce need in the health care industry. They hope to be the intermediary between Sands, and the possible cross-sector partnerships between Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth and United Health.
Roman noted that the entire community needs to collaborate to expand the pool of graduating nurses to address the number of retiring nurses from the baby boomer era. While the school of nursing has grown, Roman argued, “those numbers could be 3X and we’d still by short.”
Board member Dan Moore said, “The two hospitals have more than $10 billion in sales. There isn’t a lot of facilitation that’s needed here. We need to think ‘How do we add 500 graduate degrees per year to our menu?’
“It’s what we really need to meet the need and really move the needle,” Moore said. “I think we’ve got to up our expectations here and think of ways to do it and pushing it on the outside is a great idea. If we don’t do it somebody else is going to, and we need the credit hours here.”
The next board of trustees meeting will be on March 21 on the fourth floor of the Gerald H. Gordan Conference Pavilion at the Wolstein Center.