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Central State University Makes Pitch for $33 Million Aid Plan


Financially struggling Central State University needs an extra $33 million in state funding to preserve its role as Ohio’s only public historically Black college, its president said this week.

The special request would allow the school to upgrade its buildings, improve its academic programs and offer more financial aid to many of the low-income students who enroll there, President John Garland told the Ohio Board of Regents.

“We add much value to the lives of our students and their families,” Garland said. A college education is one of the greatest tools for growing the state’s Black middle class, he added. Garland said the plan is critical to the school’s future.

About $23 million would go toward building a new student center. An additional $9.9 million would be spread out over three years to allow Central State to make other building improvements, create a new marketing plan and expand financial aid to help student retention.

If endorsed by the nine-member board, the plan would go to the state Legislature for final approval.Central State, located in Wilberforce, nearly closed its campus a decade ago because of financial difficulties and other problems. Enrollment is about 1,800 this year, up from previous years but still below the school’s peak enrollment of 3,263 in 1991. Ninety percent of the students are Black, according to the school’s Web site.

Garland said only 49 percent of the school’s freshmen return to the school as sophomores, in large part because many of the students lack the financial resources to continue their education.

Most of Central State’s students come from economically disadvantaged urban school districts in Cleveland, Dayton, Columbus and Cincinnati, he said.

The new aid plan also would create special academic programs at other schools that would help students transfer to Central State to complete bachelor’s degrees. That, along with the building upgrades, curriculum changes and new marketing will help boost enrollment to 6,000 by 2017, school officials predict.

Sinclair Community College, Cuyahoga Community College, the University of Cincinnati, Cleveland State University, Cincinnati State University and The Ohio State University would participate in the transfer program.

The new funding request is unusual because Central State is in an unusual position, said regents spokesman Jamie Abel. Because Ohio’s funding formula for public colleges is largely tied to enrollment, Central State’s low enrollment hurts the school’s ability to sustain itself.

Central State has gotten by with a special operating subsidy of about $11 million a year, Abel said.

The extra students generated by the new plan will bring added money, which would let the state gradually reduce the university’s operating subsidy. The subsidy would start to decline in 2011 and would disappear completely by 2017, according to the plan.

During the meeting, regents chairwoman Donna Alvarado asked Garland if the plan would be seen as something unique to Central State and unavailable to Ohio’s other public universities trying to grow their own enrollments. Garland said it is a special request, but the plan calls for the regents to closely monitor the school’s progress. “And when it works, other universities may be encouraged to try their own plans,” he said.

Associated Press

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