News & Announcements

Cleveland State University Board Extends President’s Contract Through 2026

Harlan Sands cited for advances in enrollment, academics, student success, finance and leadership during pandemic

CLEVELAND (March 18, 2021) – The Cleveland State University Board of Trustees voted unanimously to continue expanding CSU’s “transformational reach” by extending the contract of President Harlan Sands through June 20, 2026.

The extension is added to Sands’ five-year contract that began in May 2018 and was set to expire in June 2023.

“Harlan is a dynamic leader and there is no one our Board would rather have leading us during this time of great change and challenge,” said David Gunning, chair of the CSU Board of Trustees. Gunning said the contract extension is a demonstration of the Board’s “full faith and confidence in President Sands’ leadership and ability to carry out CSU’s mission and expand its transformational reach.”

“There is nowhere I would rather be than here at CSU representing and supporting our faculty and staff as they transform student lives every day,” Sands said. “It has been an incredible privilege, and I am truly grateful to the Board of Trustees for their continuing confidence. I also want to thank the many faculty, staff and students that make us who we are – you are the inspiration that drives us, and the reason I am so confident we will achieve our collective dreams for CSU.”

The Board cited a number of specific accomplishments under Sands’ leadership that speak to CSU’s transformation:

  • Exceptional vision, leadership and ability to execute on strategic priorities that advance CSU’s mission to provide a high-quality, accessible and affordable education. Over the past three years, Sands has recruited and empowered new faculty and staff leaders across the university, with significant adds to faculty in key academic and research areas and a strengthened senior leadership team.
  • Enrollment growth and stability, with CSU ranked fourth among 14 Ohio public universities for university-wide enrollment trending in fall 2020. Thanks to sustained investments in enrollment planning, recruitment, and partnerships, fall 2021 applications, acceptances, and admissions are up significantly across the institution – during a pandemic.
  • Multiple innovative partnerships that advance and invest in CSU’s academic enterprise, with a prominent recent example being CSU’s key participation in the newly announced Cleveland Innovation District, which partners CSU with the Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, the MetroHealth System and Case Western Reserve University. As the primary educational partner that will build a pipeline for recruiting and educating students, JobsOhio will invest significantly in CSU to produce graduates in emerging technologies, life sciences and data-intensive fields and double the number of four-year degrees, certificates, adult learning opportunities and virtual education in STEM fields to match employer demands.

    Through additional partnerships and investments in new programs such as CSU Global, Say Yes to Education, a transformation Student Success Coaches program, and the groundbreaking public private partnership establishing the Parker Hannifin Living and Learning Community - through which CMSD and Say Yes to Education students receive free room and board as part of a unique living and learning program – CSU has made significant, continuous improvement in first-year student retention rates which have increased 6 percent in the past two years.

  • A greatly improved financial foundation for the university, including a strengthened balance sheet, revenue growth, expense reductions, strong rating agency financial reports and a significantly reduced fiscal year 2021 budget gap that, based on projections, resulted in restoration of a temporary faculty and staff pay reduction in early 2021. CSU now ranks fifth among 14 Ohio public universities on a key financial health metric, with a Consolidated Financial Index of 4.2.
  • Increasing community and donor support, as evidenced by as nearly 2,500 donors from 44 states and 12 countries gave more than $450,000 – a 50 percent increase from 2018 – on CSU’s annual Giving Day in February, bolstering nearly 90 different colleges, programs, funds and athletic teams.

All this and more came amid the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, Board members noted. CSU has worked through the public health crisis with one of the nation’s most comprehensive pandemic safety protocols for an urban campus. That planning and execution led to CSU conducting about half of classes in-person and on-campus amid the pandemic – with an on-campus COVID test positivity rate of 0.36 percent in spring 2021, one of the lowest rates in the nation for an urban university.

“Leaders are measured by how they lead during the most trying times,” said Board Chair Gunning. “We’ve now seen how Harlan Sands leads during an unprecedented public health crisis. This is the leader we need now and going forward.”

That way forward is also symbolized by the Forward Together Fund, a fund established by President Sands upon his arrival at CSU, which is focused on investments that directly support CSU students. The initiative is already funded with $744,000, plus a $1 million pledge.

Concurrent with the contract extension announcement, Sands, his wife, Lynn, and the extended Sands family announced a gift of $100,000 to the Forward Together Fund.

“Lynn and I are fully committed to getting as many students through CSU as possible over the next five years,” Sands said. “We love CSU and the Cleveland community, and will work doubly hard to make sure we leave no stone unturned when it comes to expanding what CSU has to offer to more students.”


About Cleveland State University
Founded in 1964, Cleveland State University is a public research institution that provides a dynamic setting for Engaged Learning. With nearly 16,000 students, ten colleges and schools and more than 175 academic programs, CSU was again chosen for 2021 as one of America’s best universities by U.S. News & World Report, including the #1 public university in Ohio for social mobility. Find more information at