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Berkman's State of the University
speech mixes optimism and concern

Cleveland State president addresses community in convocation

October 13, 2011

By Howard Primer

Cleveland State president Ronald M. Berkman expressed enthusiasm and caution during his state of the university address, which he delivered during his annual convocation Oct. 6 at Waetjen Auditorium.

He spoke of building projects and improving academic standards, and he also warned of the down economy’s impact on funds and enrollment.

“We must dramatically improve the challenge that students who want to graduate college are given the opportunity,” Berkman said. “This does not mean an entitlement to graduate. It does not mean a lowering of expectations. If done correctly, it will mean the opposite. It means providing an academic infrastructure that maximizes our students’ chances for success.”

Berkman cited the academic credentials of the largest incoming freshman class in school history, which entered with a 3.21 average GPA.
He also said CSU has fewer transfer and graduate students, which is in line with a national trend.

“A long recession and an anemic recovery is making the dream of college more challenging for middle-class families,” said Berkman, who has been on the job for a little more than two years.

He called general financial aid “the lifeblood of the university,” adding that CSU has the highest percentage of Pell Grant recipients in the state. But cuts have been made to student aid programs, and a graduate loan subsidy was eliminated during recent debt-ceiling talks.

His comments were echoed by Faculty Senate President Joanne Goodell.

“Enrollment for graduate students is a great challenge,” Goodell said. “It’s a major focus. But we’re very excited about the incoming freshmen. To get them here is a great result.”
Berkman proudly spoke of the Campus International School. It added a third grade this year, and it plans to be kindergarten through fourth grade next year. Enrollment is up to 220 students and is expected to increase to 300 next year. CSU is working with the city of Cleveland and the Cleveland Metropolitan School District to find a bigger location on or near campus.

Goodell also said the university has had many positive things happen under Berkman.
“He’s done a great job taking what (former president Michael) Schwartz has done and taken them to the next level,” she said.

Other highlights of the speech:

-- This year’s incoming freshman class grew by 11 percent. It is the largest in school history.

-- CSU retained 66 percent of last year’s freshman class. (“We still have a good way to go to reach our goal of 75 percent,” Berkman said.)

-- CSU has three-year contracts with all of its employee unions.

-- CSU alumnus Monte Ahuja made the largest donation in school history, $10 million, over the summer.

-- The State Share of Instruction funding for the CSU-NEOMED partnership was the only money added to the state budget for higher education this year.

-- Viking Hall will be torn down. CSU is hoping to replace it with an academic building, if a private partner can be found.

-- The arts campus is set to move into the Playhouse Square and make extensive use of the renovated Allen Theater.

-- The North Campus village groundbreaking is scheduled for Oct. 20.