Kent State and Slippery Rock recently opened new student recreation centers.
By RON COLE
VINDICATOR EDUCATION WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Go to any college this time of year, and you're sure to find high school seniors and their parents milling around on the traditional campus visit.
There's a presentation about tuition and financial aid, a visit to residence halls and tours of sometimes stuffy, pretty staid classroom facilities that leave some prospective students rather bored.
Highlight: But their eyes light up when they go to the campus recreation center, where students swim, lift weights, jog, do aerobics and play basketball, racquetball, floor hockey, pinball and a variety of other games.
"It's one of the things that prospective students almost always want to see on the tour," Dr. David Creamer, vice president for business and finance at Kent State University, said about the university's shiny new $25 million student recreation and wellness center.
"It's one of the things that's most appealing to students."
Youngstown State University, which does not have a separate recreation center for students, wants to get in on the action.
"We think it could have a significant impact on our student recruitment and retention efforts," said Dr. Cyndy Anderson, YSU vice president for student affairs.
Students overwhelmingly supported the idea in a vote in April 2000, agreeing to a mandatory fee increase for all students to finance the $12 million facility. Full-time students would pay $75 a semester, and part-time students would pay $60 a semester.
"It's been something that a lot of students have been talking about, especially in the residential community on campus," said Mollie McGovern, a student representative on the YSU board of trustees.
Plan deflated: Last week, however, trustees shot a big hole in the plans, telling YSU President David Sweet that they adamantly oppose raising student fees to pay for the recreation center.
Joseph Nohra said tuition and other fees have continued upward in the past several years and that he can't justify raising them more.
"I think we have to draw a line in the sand somewhere," he said.
Trustee Larry Esterly agreed, noting that part-time students would pay $120 a year for a facility many likely wouldn't use. "It's just simply hidden tuition," he said.
Trustees asked Sweet to come up with another way of funding the center, but there may not be many options. Similar to student dormitories, state capital money cannot be used for recreation centers.
Another option is raising private funds. "That's clearly one of the avenues that I'm exploring at the moment," Sweet said.
He said he does not think the administration has emphasized enough to trustees the importance of a recreation center in the university's recruitment efforts.
With the number of students living on campus increasing, expanding campus activities is crucial, he said. A new 400-bed student apartment complex is expected to open next fall.
"By no means in my view is this a dead issue, particularly since the students are the ones who initiated this idea and particularly because the competition all are coming forward with this," he said.
"This is the wave of the future," said Jack Rigney, YSU director of campus and intramural sports.
"Actually, this is the wave of the present."
Kent's facility: KSU, which has 6,300 students living on campus compared to YSU's 933, opened its new recreation center in April 1999 after students approved a referendum to boost student fees $55 a semester.
Slippery Rock University, with 2,585 students living on campus, opened a $10 million recreation center in December 1999 after students approved a $65 per semester fee increase.
Big attraction: The center, which includes a swimming pool, basketball courts, fitness area, free weights and mezzanine jogging track, attracts more than 1,000 students a day, said Karl Schwab, SRU spokesman.
"We saw it immediately as an additional recruitment tool," he said.
"The students are really drawn to it," said Greg Sferra, SRU recreation center director.
The University of Akron also has plans to construct a new student recreation center.
New student-funded centers also have gone up at Ohio University, East Michigan University and Central Michigan University, Rigney said.
Baldwin-Wallace College, Case Western Reserve University and Wittenberg University in Ohio recently opened new recreation centers funded by private money, he said.