Decision made on WBGU, capital projects

After months of study and consultation with constituents and advisers, the BGSU Board of Trustees took action at the Sept. 18 meeting on WBGU-TV and the upcoming FCC auction of broadcast spectrum, initiated by the commission to increase the airwaves available for wireless communications.

The board voted to authorize President Mary Ellen Mazey and her designees to participate in the FCC spectrum auction on behalf of BGSU while ensuring that WBGU continues to serve the residents of northwest Ohio. The scenario approved by the trustees will allow BGSU to consider bids from the commission for its 600 MHz UHF spectrum.

The decision will allow BGSU to potentially generate revenue from the auction while keeping the station on the air and continuing to support the University's academic programs and provide hands-on learning opportunities for students.

"WBGU remains an important part of Bowling Green State University's mission of education, career development and service and will continue to be a resource for the University and the community," Mazey said.

Another campus facility, the former Health Center, will now be known as the Health and Human Services Building. The board approved the name change to better align it with the primary occupant and avoid confusion with the Falcon Health Center. Along with the college, the building also houses the BGSU Speech and Hearing Clinic.

The trustees also approved a plan to comply with HB 64, known as the "5 Percent Challenge," which requires Ohio public universities to identify opportunities for an undergraduate, in-state student to reduce the cost of his or her degree by 5 percent. The "challenge" is the result of what Provost and Senior Vice President Rodney Rogers called "an incredible collaboration between the governor, Ohio Senate President Keith Faber, Speaker of the House Clifford Rosenberger and the Inter-University Council."

"BGSU has a longtime commitment to making a high quality college education accessible to all Ohioans, such as our decision to freeze tuition last year. This challenge serves to focus our efforts in a systematic format," Rogers said.

There are many paths to meeting the goal, and BGSU's plan lays out multiple avenues to reduce costs. Some strategies require a partnership between the University and students, Rogers noted. BGSU will advise students on maximizing their credit hours, leveraging online summer classes, making financially wise decisions, and mapping out their major. Advisers now have at their disposal technology that can make their work more effective. By using predictive analytics to analyze students' strengths and areas of weakness along with their existing coursework, an efficient path to graduation can be developed.

Additionally, the University will encourage greater participation in the College Credit Plus program that allows high school students to take college courses for credit at no charge.

Other paths require inter-university collaboration, such as making transfer from community colleges smoother.

In capital planning action, the trustees approved the next round of funding for the renovation of University Hall to create a centralized space for undergraduate student services. These include the Office of Admissions and other offices that help define the BGSU undergraduate experience, such as Service-Learning, the Center for Undergraduate Research and Scholarship, and the Office of Deciding Students. Also planned are several active-learning classrooms.

The remaining amount approved for funding is $26.34 million, to be funded by short- and then long-term debt.

"With exterior architecture that embraces BGSU's past and interior spaces designed for contemporary needs, University Hall is a key part in our overall plan to provide high-impact programs to our students in a convenient location and a setting conducive to success," CFO Sheri Stoll

Also, in accordance with the Ohio Board of Regents' request that public universities prepare a six-year capital plan for fiscal years 2017-22, the trustees approved the next biennium of BGSU's plan, for 2017-18, comprising those projects the University has identified as most important to upgrade and maintain to meet academic and programmatic needs.

For the Bowling Green campus, these include renovations to the Traditions Buildings (University, South, Moseley and Hanna halls) and other core buildings such as Business Administration, Olscamp Hall, Education, Fine Arts and the sciences buildings.

For BGSU Firelands, the primary project is the development of the Allied Health and Sciences program, involving the renovation of the West and North buildings plus an addition to the North Building.

In order to fund all the capital projects identified in the Six-Year Plan, BGSU will need to issue "general receipts debt" in the form of bonds. To do this, the trustees granted approval for a three-phase capital funding plan.

The first part, the issuance of $40 million in short-term debt, was accomplished in 2014 and funded the construction of two new residence halls through the creation of a separate corporation, Centennial Falcon Properties 1 (CFP1).

The second phase involves from $60 million to $70 million to cover the cost of a multitude of projects included in the Campus Master Plan, the renovation of the Student Recreation Center, Moseley Hall, classroom upgrades, the Greek Housing replacement and more.

The third part allows the University, over the next year, to monitor interest rates and the amount it still owes CFP1 on the new student housing and, if the situation is favorable, to in effect buy out the corporation and assume the debt at a lower interest rate.