Letter to the Editor: Reinvest in Student Success

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Letter to the Editor: Reinvest in Student Success

By Collin T. Hayes, BA in Political Science, The University of Akron, Class of 2017

To President Miller and the Members of the Board of Trustees:

I write this letter as a proud Akron Zip, a sentiment which was completely unfamiliar to me just five years ago. The path which brought me to Akron was long and winding; suffice it to say, after many false starts and missteps, UA offered an environment in the classroom and on campus where I was able to thrive.

I am forever grateful for the lessons I learned at the Bliss Institute, under the likes of Dr. John Green, Dr. David Cohen, Dr. Dan Coffey, and Dr. Phil Marcin. Their courses equipped me with essential knowledge that has enabled me to excel in my academic and professional pursuits. I am equally thankful to have been involved in Student Government in my time at UA, where I worked alongside student leaders who shared my passion for our campus community.

I believe that my experience at Akron highlights the very best of what our University can be. At the time I enrolled in UA, I had very few prospects and very little hope. My time at UA helped me to realize my full potential and inspired me to pursue my goals. These are the stories and experiences that I highlight when anyone asks me where I went to school.

I’m afraid, unfortunately, that my experience at Akron is not representative of the large majority of students who attend our University. Despite recent progress, our graduation and retention rates are still well below the national average, especially for our minority students. With the start of yet another presidential administration at UA, I believe that it is imperative to make this issue a priority.

In my opinion, we must begin by questioning why so many students, especially minority students, are unable to achieve academic success at UA. From my personal experience as an Undergraduate Senator, I spoke to many students who were surprised by the amount of fees that were added on to their student account after tuition. Many students who had taken out loans or received scholarships to cover their tuition did not realize that they were still responsible for thousands of dollars in expenses for parking and transportation, room and board, books, and other fees. When these expenses became insurmountable, many students dropped out, unaware of alternative payment options – while retaining the student loans that they took out to cover their tuition costs. I would strongly recommend that your administration take swift action to improve transparency in student fees and to publicize alternative payment options for low income students.

Secondly, we must realize that Akron’s high acceptance rate is a contributing factor to several of these concerns. Many students entering UA have the drive and the ambition for academic achievement, but lack the training and essential resources for success. I do not recommend enacting stricter standards for admission. I believe that UA should remain a place where any student can receive a quality education; but in order to fulfill that promise, significant investment in academic support services and remedial education is required. We cannot view Akron’s students as numbers on a spreadsheet, or revenue towards our growing deficit — as I believe, unfortunately, past administrations and trustees have. Every student who enrolls at our University is a vital member of the Akron community, and every matter that comes before your administration is secondary to their academic success.

Finally, past administrations have failed to address these issues for fear of budgetary consequences. In truth, recommitting our University to the support and success of every student will require significant resources, given that our budgetary priorities have drifted elsewhere in recent years. It cannot be stated often enough that Akron spends more on its athletics programs than any other school in Ohio, except for the University of Cincinnati. I will leave it to you to determine if our returns are worth that investment. We must seriously consider whether it is appropriate for all of our athletic programs to continue competing at a Division 1 level, especially if that decision comes at the expense of better student outcomes.

I hope that you will keep these thoughts in mind as you strive to fulfill the University of Akron’s mission statement, namely, to “develop enlightened members of society” and to “pursue excellence in undergraduate education.” Above all, I hope that you will take great care and consideration while setting the course for the future of our institution, and that you will use your position to prioritize the success of every Zip.

Thank you,

Collin T Hayes

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