Dr. Cynthia Jackson Hammond is the first woman president of Central State University in that institution’s 127-year history. She has presided as CSU has achieved 1890 Land Grant Institution status and as its campus expands. She will step down at the end of this year. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF PHOTO

Central State president to step down after 8 years in university’s top job

CSU president Cynthia Jackson-Hammond will leave the post after eight years in the job. Jackson-Hammond’s tenure as the university’s top leader will come to an end after the university faced stricter state oversight, rebounded and grew.

“President Jackson-Hammond’s tenure has undoubtedly marked a period of growth and prosperity for our university and we are all eternally grateful for the course on which we have been set because of her leadership and vision,” Mark Hatcher, chairman of the school’s board of trustees said in a statement.

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CSU was placed on state fiscal watch by the Ohio Department of Higher Education in 2015 and was removed in March 2017.

The state measures every public college’s fiscal health with something called a “Senate Bill 6 score,” an annual rating of 0 to 5. Any school that falls below a 1.75 two years in a row is put on notice.

Central State scored a 1.3 in 2013 and a 1 in 2014. To get removed from fiscal watch, a university must meet a rating of at least 2.4 and must also re-mediate all conditions that led to its financial troubles.

Central State’s score rose to a 2.8 in fiscal year 2016 and it remained that level in fiscal year 2017. CSU’s score since fell to a 2.3 for FY 2018, the most recent year for which data is available from the state.

“No one likes to be on fiscal watch but it was an opportunity for us to regroup, rethink, re-strategize and re-position ourselves for a better future,” Jackson-Hammond said in 2017.

A decline in enrollment and students’ difficulty in qualifying for federal financial aid were challenges that led to Central State’s financial struggles, Jackson-Hammond has said.

CSU’s fall enrollment decreased by more than 15% from 2,068 in 2013 to 1,751 in 2015, according to the state. Since then though, Central State’s enrollment had grown to around 2,099 last fall, according to ODHE enrollment reports.

Jackson-Hammond was Central State’s eighth president and the first woman to lead the institution. Under her leadership, the university opened a new $33.5 million student center in 2015 and a $24-million residence hall is set to be completed later this month.

» RELATED: Central State students left without dorms, temporary housing assigned

In recent years, the university has also expanded its research, applying to become home to a medical marijuana lab. Central State announced this summer that it would also seek to become Ohio’s first public institution to have a department dedicated to researching hemp.

Jackson-Hammond’s contract will expire as she steps down after it had been extended in 2018, according to the university. Central State declined to make Jackson-Hammond or any other university leaders available for an interview for this story.

The university has hired a consulting firm, Academic Search Inc., to begin the search for its next leader. The same search firm helped Wright State University to find its current president, Cheryl Schrader, in 2017.

Central State’s board of trustees will also appoint an advisory committee to work with search consultants. The search firm and advisory committee will host meetings Sept. 16 and Sept. 17 to hear from campus community members about what they’d like to see in the school’s next leader.

Trustees plan to pick CSU’s next president before the end of March 2020, allowing for Jackson-Hammond to help the new leader transition into the role.

“The board of trustees embarks on this pivotal moment in the institution’s proud and distinguished history with the goal of hiring a president for Central State University who will move us forward on our mission to academically prepare students with diverse backgrounds and educational needs,” Hatcher said.

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