Triumphs, turmoil at Central State: 5 things we learned from our reporting

Central State University trustees are meeting today and tomorrow to discuss and vote on university matters. This is their first public meeting this year after two closed-door executive sessions, most recently on Monday a “Legal Update/Consultation Related to Pending/imminent Court Actions.”

Central State is working to overcome multiple challenges, some new and some long-lasting. This week, the historically Black university was awarded $3 million to improve its internet infrastructure.

In Sunday’s Dayton Daily News, reporters Lynn Hulsey and Eileen McClory wrote about the importance of CSU to our region, and challenges it is facing. Read the full report here.

Here are five key takeaways from their reporting:

1. President under pressure

Central State President Jack Thomas is currently the focus of an investigation led the the Ohio Attorney General’s Office after five Black women at the university accused him of harassments and discrimination. Thomas has not commented publicly about the allegations. Thomas resigned from his previous job at Western Illinois University — after getting the job as president of CSU — amid a “public campaign for his ouster, with allegations of infighting and racial animus,” reported the State Journal-Register of Springfield, Illinois.

2. Loss of important program

The free online college program that accounts for the majority of students currently enrolled at Central State is shutting down because of action by the U.S. Department of Education. Students in the program will be allowed to stay enrolled at Central State, but it’s unclear how many will do so once they don’t have access to the program that makes it free.

3. Enrollment challenges

Central State is one of the smallest universities in Ohio, with recent growth attributed entirely to its online programs. University officials say they are working to increase in-person enrollment by adding housing and amenities.

4. Vital to the region

Central State officials say an economic impact study found the university had a $213.7 million economic impact on Greene and Montgomery counties in 2020. Of the 235 graduates that year, 62% stayed in Ohio, further supporting the region’s economy. CSU is a key partner in workforce development as Ohio works to lure employers such as Intel.

5. Public support

Local, state and national leaders say Central State plays a vital role in our region, educating minority and first-generation college students and offering the lowest tuition among public four-year colleges in the state. State and federal efforts are working to bolster the school. “Central State is one of Ohio’s great institutions of higher education and is crucial to the region and the state to continue our proud history of leading the country in manufacturing innovation,” said U.S Sen. Sherrod Brown.

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