ASHTABULA – The monthly Profiles speaker series sponsored by Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County and Kent State University at Ashtabula featured KSUA Dean Susan Stocker on April 5 and focused on current and future plans for the campus.
Stocker began by saying that current enrollment at the Ashtabula campus is at 1,945 students, but full- and part-time.
“That is down, at one point we had 2,500 students,” Stocker said. “That’s for a variety of reasons, but we expect it to be up. Some demographic issues are affecting our enrollment. We’re working on engaging the population.”
Enrollment at KSUA is 35 percent mala and 65 percent female, with an average student age of 26.
“We’re seeing more traditional high school students coming to our campus,” Stocker said. “Sixty-five percent of our students are full-time. That’s a major misconception many people have about us – that most of our students are part-time. We don’t even offer Saturday classes anymore - there’s no demand.”
Forty-four percent of students at KSUA are Ashtabula County residents, according to Stocker. Some of the remainder come from 23 different states.
Stocker said the State of Ohio provided $1.1 million for capital improvements on campus last year, whereas this year that figure has been cut to $350,000 in the current biennial budget proposal.
“That’s a huge cut and poses a lot of challenges to bricks-and-mortar improvements,” Stocker said.
The 50 full-time and 50 part-time faculty on campus at KSUA hail from some of the state and nation’s top universities, including three recipients of the Distinguished Teaching Award, and all faculty credentials are approved by the Kent campus.
The $5,664 annual tuition at KSUA is very affordable compared to other state colleges and universities, but the campus must compete with community colleges, which are supported by local levy systems, according to Stocker.
“A lot of people worry about what you see in the news or read in the paper about kids coming out of school with so much debt,” Stocker said. “Talking to students coming here and spending their first two years here, living at home and transferring – they’re leaving without so much debt.”
KSUA also offers $300,000 a year in scholarships, according to Stocker.
The highest-profile program at KSUA is, according to Stocker, the nursing certification program.
“If you ask people what they know about Kent State University at Ashtabula, they say nursing,” Stocker said. “We’re celebrating 50 years of nursing instruction. If you asked then or repeated that today, they’d say the same thing.”
The nursing program at KSUA has a pass rate of 92 or 93 percent, according to Stocker.
“I’d say ACMC and UH Conneaut and Geneva, the hospitals in our community, would really struggle if we didn’t offer this program,” Stocker said. “We’re also home to the largest physical therapist program in the state.”
A more recent addition to KSUA’s course catalogue is their wine degrees and enology program, part of the reason so many out-of-state students are coming to the campus, according to Stocker.
“We’re very proud of our wine degrees,” Stocker said. “The program was made possible by a National Science Foundation grant. We’re really trying to position ourselves as the premiere program in the country.”
Partnerships with local school districts on the applicant side and employers in the graduate side mean most KSUA graduates come to school, graduate and remain afterward, according to Stocker.
“Many of our graduates are place bound,” Stocker said. “They live in our community, go to school here and start their careers here with local employers. We’re very proud that we’re providing our local employers with a skilled workforce.”
Looking to the future, Stocker said plans are in the works for several renovations and additions, depending on budgeting locally and from the state.
“We’re looking at a renovation of C wing – which is $4 to $5 million, to give you an idea what that costs,” Stocker said. “We also need to renovate our auditorium, which is not ADA compliant and the seats are kind of dilapidated. We’re hoping we can get that done in the next couple of years.”
Stocker said she’d also like to make an addition to the north side of the main hall.
“People come in who aren’t familiar with our campus and they’re not sure where the entrance is,” Stocker said. “We’d like to add something to kind of let people know they’ve arrived.”
In the next three to five years, Stocker said the campus would also like to renovate its library, citing differences in use patterns among college students between now and when the facility was built.
The most common question, however, is when KSUA will be getting some sort of student housing.
“When you put housing on campus you get all sorts of, shall we say challenges,” Stocker said. “What are they going to eat? What will they do on weekends? You have a whole lot of challenges associated with housing. That being said, we get calls all the time from prospective students who want to take some of our more unique classes like our wine degree.”
Tentative plans are in the works, according to Stocker, to build some sort of dual-use facility that could serve as student housing during the school year and a rental facility during the summer.
“We have a lot on our plate in terms of renovations,” Stocker said. “We’re very proud of the renovations we’ve done so far. I feel we’ve really been good stewards of the campus, students are really enjoying everything we’ve done so far.”
Pictured is Kent State University at Ashtabula Dean Susan Stocker, who gave a talk on the current and future improvements on the campus to help lift enrollment during the Profiles speaker series April 5. The monthly talks are sponsored by KSUA and Growth Partnership for Ashtabula County.