Monday, August 12, 2013


It was unsettling to read Bob Dyer's piece (Akron Beacon Journal, August 11, 2013, UA graduation rate is awful) for a variety of reasons.

Being a graduate of Akron University myself (1968 - undergraduate; 1973 - law school), reading his column was dismaying for the very fact of The University of Akron being my school.

Although working a full-time job, I graduated from the university within four years of starting.

Same for law school.

Worked a full-time job but graduated from the night program (which was programmed for all of us as being a four year course of study [three years day school]).

So it was more than a little bit disconcerting to read Dyer's referenced data which puts the percentage graduating from Akron at 14% within four years and 38% within six years.

This from a university board of trustees that seemingly does not hold its CEO (Proenza) accountable. For he recently announced his retirement and, according to press accounts, Akron U officials negotiated a ten year agreement with him that included:
  • a salary increase to $500,000 annually (an 18% increase over his present salary), and additional perks of being granted:
    • a post-retirement sabbatical (at the $500,000 per rate), 
    • the right to participate in the executive level bonus pool over the next three years, and 
    • the right to return to the university post-sabbatical to a full professorship and president emeritus at $325,000 annum to be boosted by:
      • the creation of a "Trustees Chair in Higher Education and the Economy" with money raised from current among current university trustees and other friends of the university which is expected to add $50,000 per year over the life of his contract.
Moreover, it appears to the SCPR that it does not bother the trustees and Proenza that as a returning professor he will be making about 30% more than next highest paid faculty member.

Of course, this aspect of Proenza's contract raises the question of whether or it it will trigger labor unrest among the university's day-in, day-out full-time faculty.

In the SCPR's way of thinking, the retirement buyout of Proenza has shades of the CEO who has run a corporation into the ground but nonetheless gets paid handsomely to - over time - go away.  Except, in this case, Proenza is not going away.  He will be back.

Obviously, over his 15 year stint with the university, matters in terms of graduation rate have declined even though Ohio's taxpayers have put millions upon millions of dollars into the university's facilities (e.g. $61.5 for the Infocision Stadium complex), programs and operations.

A $61.5 million stadium outlay for a football team that has been 3 wins, 33 losses over the past three years and thereby is nowhere near making enough money to cover the total university athletic program costs as is the case with the likes of The Ohio State University.

A $61.5 million decision that Proenza had to be "up to his eyeballs in" undoubtedly at the expense of the primary mission of the university (academic excellence) and he gets a "golden parachute?"

In his piece, Dyer attributed the unacceptable graduation rate numbers (in his words) as follows:

Add all these numbers together and we are left to conclude that either:
A.) UA is not giving the students the support they need, or
B.) UA is admitting people who simply are not equipped to do the work.
The SCPR would add ", or C.) UA has had in Proenza an ineffective CEO."

The accurate answer to the question of the horrible numbers is likely a combination of all three.

Recently (May, 2012), Akron announced it was rejecting some student applications and referring them to community colleges such as Stark State College with a main campus in North Canton.

All foregoing prompted the SCPR to take a look at what is happening in terms of the graduation rate of Stark County's two public institutions of higher learning:  Stark State College and Kent State - Stark.

To borrow Dyer's term "awful" in his describing Akron U's rate of graduation, the numbers at Stark County's two public institutions of higher learning merit the descriptive expression "awful on steriods."


If you thought Akron's 14% was bad for getting a degree within four years, look at Stark State's: a whopping 7.3%.

And student-wise, it is about as big as the University of Akron.  Stark State officials claim a total enrollment (credit and non credit) of some 19,000 students.

With Stark State at 7.3% (2010 numbers), such a number makes a clear and convincing case public officials (both executive officials and overseeing directors and advisors) are throwing "good and 'hard earned'" taxpayer money after "totally unacceptable results"

Who in their right mind would put millions of dollars into facilities, programs and operations for a prime bench mark success (or, let's say failure) rate of 7.3%.

And Stark State's officials under the leadership of Para Jones (who only recently became president but has been a keep component of SCC administration going back a number of years [less an out-of-state stint for a couple of years right before assuming the presidency]) are not content with limiting the disservice to taxpayers to the institution's main campus.  SSC has expanded its operations to cover most of Stark County (and even into neighboring counties) and, of course, at the expense of millions of dollars in outlay of taxpayer funds in building/renting facilities and the staffing them.


While 6.8% graduating in four years may seem to be worse than Stark State College (SSC), it is not.  For to stay the course for four years is much more difficult that hanging in there for a mere two years as is the case with SSC to get a basic degree.

But the difference is not anything to brag about.

An interesting aspect of the Kent Stark - Stark operation is that it does have a list of prominent Stark Countians who apparently are not holding the feet of Dr. Walter F. Wagor (Dean of Academic Affairs/Chief Administrative Officer) and Dr. Ruth Capasso (Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs) to the fire in terms of accounting for the totally unacceptable graduation rate numbers.


Stark County commissioner Richard Regula among them.

Interesting, no?

Canton mayor William J. Healy, II among them.

Interesting, no?

Well known Stark County educator Jacqueline DeGarmo (former superintendent of Plain Local School District) among them.

Interesting, no?

Stark County Educational Partnership president Adrienne O'Neill among them.

Interesting, no?

The SCPR thinks that Stark County, Ohio and federal taxpayers are getting shafted (in terms of achieved graduation rates) by Stark's public institutions of higher learning.

And all this ineffectiveness vis-a-vis the taxpayer is going on right under the nose of Stark County's legislative delegation to the Ohio General Assembly.

Nary a word about this flagrant inefficiency on the part of Messers Oelslager, Schuring Slesnick and Ms. Hagan.  It is not as if this phenomenon has sprung up over night.  For them to have not seen it is to say that they are not seeing something "hidden in plain sight."

Hagan, in particular, via press releases, tries to make out that she is the maven of fiscal integrity.

From a SCPR blog of November 30, 2011:

She would be far more impressive locally if she were to read the riot act to Stark State and Kent State Stark officials for their poor performance in parlaying tax dollars into acceptable graduation rate results.

She is very bullish for vocational education (Stark State's specialty), if Ohio is to invest in higher education at all. Moreover, she can be read by her public statements as being for no education at all beyond high school for many Ohioans.  She is fond of saying that "college is not for everyone."

Isn't that scary in 21st century America?

In an ironical sense, it could be taken that the graduation rate numbers cited in this blog support her - in general - anti-public-supported-higher-education-stance.

But the base question remains.  Why are we taxpayers paying so much to local institutions of higher learning and getting so little in return with no or little accountability on the part the well paid public officials who run them?

Maybe the Ohio General Assembly, at the agitation of Hagan, should be getting some answers and if no convincing answers are forthcoming, perhaps some heads should roll (figuratively speaking, of course), no?

Does she and her fellows have the stomach for holding the likes of Para Jones, Walter Wagor and Ruth Capasso accountable for the deplorable graduation rate numbers that Stark State and Kent State - Stark are producing?

The SCPR's forecast?  Absolutely not!

That's what makes her feints at accountability for the use of taxpayer dollars appear to be just that:  rhetoric, rhetoric and more rhetoric.

In this discussion, the SCPR has not touched on the all-too-frequent need for remediation of students entering college across Ohio at student and taxpayer expense. Such is required because a significant number of graduating college bound high school seniors have not acquired basic academic skills during their K-12 days.

But The Report saves this topic for consideration in a future blog.

It is now time for big time public pressure to brought to bear on the Proenzas, Joneses, Wagors and Compassos of of academia to develop a plan for putting public money to much more productive and efficient use than 14%, 7.3% and 6.8% bespeak.

They are all amply compensated.  True enough, some (i.e. Proenza) much better than the rest.

The SCPR totally subscribes to Dyer's parting shot in his column, to wit:
Area taxpayers should be demanding to know why a university that has been constructing things faster than a post-World War II Levittown is foundering in one of the most important categories in higher education. 

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