In opening his State the University address, President Roderick J. McDavis likened Ohio University's metaphorical march toward affordable and accessible higher education to that of another historic march for jobs and freedom: the March on Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963. On the 50th anniversary of that historic moment, McDavis illustrated the university's position of strength through the accomplishments of its faculty and staff and the strategic initiatives in place for years to come.

In opening his State the University address, President Roderick J. McDavis likened Ohio University's metaphorical march toward affordable and accessible higher education to that of another historic march for jobs and freedom: the March on Washington, D.C. on Aug. 28, 1963. On the 50th anniversary of that historic moment, McDavis illustrated the university's position of strength through the accomplishments of its faculty and staff and the strategic initiatives in place for years to come.

"We have endured tough times together," he said. "But because we have been disciplined and strategic in efforts moving toward our shared vision, we are in a position of strength today. Because we have been proactive and forward thinking, we are a force of change in higher education."

McDavis announced plans for 1 percent salary increase for faculty and staff for the current academic year.

In a speech peppered with university points of pride, McDavis laid the foundation on which the university's position of strength is built, beginning with the recent national recognition of the value an OU education affords students.

The university's Athens Campus was ranked 15th in the state for return on investment and recently received a second place national ranking on Policy Mics's list of "12 Top Colleges Where Students Get the Best Bang for Their Buck." The president also pointed to the university's leadership in innovation and commercialization, citing its recent 14th place national ranking for licensing revenue per dollars spent on research. These hallmarks can be added to an already impressive list of national recognition that includes top standings for several OU colleges within their academic fields.

Additionally, OU has been a powerful voice in the state-wide conversations re-shaping the way institutions of higher education receive funding, he said.

"Through leadership, participation and service within state and national organizations, boards and conferences, the Ohio University community has captured the attention of the higher education community,” McDavis said. “They are increasingly looking to us as an example of an institution that has thrived, thanks to creative adaptations during hard economic times. We are forging creative solutions to the national issues of access, affordability, and transparency.”

Creative solutions which are apparent on a state-wide level: OU is a leader in developing the state's newly reformed higher education funding model through participation in the Ohio Higher Education Funding Commission. The new model links funding to graduation rates, not headcounts, and mirrors U.S. President Barack Obama's recently outlined agenda to make college more affordable by directly connecting funding to measurable outcomes. According to McDavis, the university's top-three standing for six-year graduation rates in the state positions it for continued financial strength under this new model.

McDavis said the university's Guaranteed Tuition Plan also illustrates Ohio University's leadership in college affordability. The plan provides predictability to parents and students by guaranteeing tuition rates, increases the value of financial aid and re-engineers the budget model to best respond to trends in the state share of instruction.

He praised OU's leadership as an economic engine in Southeast Ohio and celebrated the spirit of service that defines OU's culture, reporting that the University has generated $1.5 billion in economic impact in the state in 2012 and $104 million in state and local tax revenue in 2012 by university-associated activities, according to the newly released Ohio University Economic Impact Report, which he will summarized for the Board of Trustees Thursday.

McDavis also praised the university's strategic enrollment management plan, which he said resulted in a record-shattering 20,750 applications for the current academic year — 25 percent above last year. He said that number includes 50 percent more out-of-state applications, 7 percent more in-state applications, 44 percent more multicultural applications from 85 countries.

"As a result, this year’s freshmen class is Ohio University’s largest, most diverse class, with the highest overall quality in the history of our institution," he said.

A full account of the OU State of the University address and accompanying video can be found at www.ohio.edu/compass/stories/13-14/8/Force-Of-Change.cfm.

*This article was provided by OU's University Communications and Marketing. Messenger staff journalist Sara Brumfield contributed to this article.