The rollout of the University of Akron's game plan to erase a $40 million budget shortfall missed a soft landing by the length of its football field. UA's foolish decision to tack on $50 per credit hour fees for upper level courses as new income against a tuition freeze was costly for a campus claiming to be in need to change its brand. It revealed a desperate hunt-and-peck system to resolve a serious budget deficit.
President Scott Scarborough announced this week that the brass had reconsidered the imposition of those fees after discovering that the state had added $4 million to UA's ledger in the budget passed by the legislature in late June. A month passed before Scarborough disclosed the rejection of such fees to be presented - with guaranteed approval - to the Board of Trustees. (Is it unfair to wonder what these compliant boards are good for?)
Where has the board been since trustees approved the new fees in the first place? Where is their accountability after they leave the campus for their fulltime jobs? Surely it must have had some sense that the students would raise a lot of hell - which they did, with reports that some were considering withdrawing from the school And UA, so intent on repairing its blurred image, found the pricing policy quite counterproductive.
The Plain Dealer, for example, angrily responded editorially, describing the fees as a "sneaky' way to replace "prohibitive tuition increases [that] should not stand."
Now, is that the sort of thing you want to see in a recruiting letter to a student?
Meantime, questions remain unanswered. At E.J. Thomas Hall, the bright stage for Broadway productions and a quality national speaker series, no contracts have been signed with any of the arrivals that were on tap for the new season. Such delays are not only unusual but unconscionable by an administration that claims it is preparing for a new brand of university life.The only talking points so far is that all non-academic programs will be cancelled. Are they waiting for Godot?
Other departments are also cliff-hanging for specifics that should have been clearly cited by now.
Not to worry, Lawrence Burns, the new vice president of advancement (!) told the Plain Dealer, which earlier reported: "Burns argues the special fee might not be that much of a burden because many juniors and seniors are eligible for scholarships that will defray the costs."
Oh? And those without scholarships for new fees that could amount to as much as an additional $1,200 for an already fee-burdened student body?
Isn't it time for the front office to stop circling the wagons before empty classrooms start turning up here and there?