Ohio University president highlights accomplishments during State of the University Address

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ATHENS, Ohio (WOUB) — In his second and final State of the University Address last week, Ohio University President Hugh Sherman highlighted several challenges facing both public universities and higher education in general, including declining enrollment, soaring tuition and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Hugh Sherman
Hugh Sherman [Ohio University]

“Nationally, more than 1.3 million students have dropped out of college since the pandemic started,” Sherman said. “In one recent survey, 40 percent of parents surveyed said a college education is not worth the time, effort or cost. Corporate recruiters want us to measure student learning outcomes, not simply count credit hours.”

Sherman also argued that in a time of increased political polarization, the role of public universities is more important than ever.

“Public universities provide students with the opportunity to learn with people who are different from themselves,” he said. “We need to address these concerns so that we can continue to deliver on the promise of a public education. This is true for all public universities, and it is certainly true for us here at Ohio.”

Sherman has less than a year left in his term as interim president since being appointed by the board of trustees in June 2021. He emphasized the positive developments that have taken place at Ohio University during his term, including record fall enrollment and increased investments in mental health and academic advising for students.

“Because of everybody’s efforts, we were able to achieve a historic high in the number of freshmen that enrolled this fall, 4,441, the largest class in our history,” Sherman said. “Our objective is to maintain around a 4,000 student freshmen class in the coming years, as well as improving our retention and graduation rates.”

Other significant achievements made by the university within the past year included being designated as a top-tier school for research and development in the latest Carnegie Classification and receiving a $3 million dollar grant from Intel to help create a workforce development and training program for the semiconductor industry.

“We have a strong financial position,” Sherman said. “We will make investments that will enhance student experience and success in a way that will more clearly differentiate the value of an Ohio University degree.”

Sherman also touched upon Ohio University’s abilities to aid the region through its expertise in fields such as rural health, environmental issues and workforce training, along with its partnerships with regional organizations.

While proud of the accomplishments made over the first half of his short term, Sherman, who has been at the university for 27 years, first as a professor and then in a variety of administrative roles, acknowledged some wistfulness.

“This is a special but somewhat bittersweet time for me,” Sherman said. “While it’s easy to get caught up in the day-to-day details of our work, we need to take time to appreciate the impact that each of you makes helping our students every day, no matter what your work is or what your role is.”