What are the University of Cincinnati's priorities?

State funding has declined for UC, and public universities across Ohio, since the 2008 recession: increasing their reliance on tuition for revenue. Additionally, there is an increasing presence of the financial sector in higher ed: whether it’s the backgrounds of their board of trustees members, or the nature of their strategies.


At UC, these members have absolutely no accountability to us, despite them making a majority of the decisions that impact us most. 


In other words, our school is being run more like a business and less like a university especially because of who is making the decisions, and because of cuts in state funding. Because of a lack of accountability, spending goes unchecked by the broader community.

This reality has caused a shift in focus from our school’s academic mission. Their priorities can be clearly seen by asking the question: where is money being moved to, and away from, at our university?


The topics below are not meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather, the primary symptoms we have recognized through our research.

Administrative Spending


4 min read

UC revenue is split between the colleges, and the administration. Both are important, but there is a balance that must be reached.


The colleges spend money directly on the academic mission, while the administration spends money on more general campus functions. This could be libraries and dorms, but it can also be marketing and development projects. Right now, the administration receives a majority of the revenue that comes into UC, despite the colleges bringing in most of its money through tuition & state funding.


Without participation from students, faculty, and other community members, the administration prioiritizes the financial performance of our school, rather than the academic one.

On average, colleges keep 40% of tuition while the administration takes 60%. This decrease from 50/50 split has resulted in a $52 million lost in tuition revenue for the colleges between 2010 and 2017.

Meet the Board of Trustees.

The Board of Trustees is the governing body of the University of Cincinnati. Trustees are appointed by the governor to a 9 year term, and have the final say in all degrees granted, faculty hired, and money spent at UC.

Of the 9 non-student trustees, only 1 has a background in education, and they have no legitimate accountability to students or faculty.

All bios were taken directly from UC's website [3].

Phil D. Collins

  • Collins is the founder and Managing Director of Orchard Holdings Group, a private equity investment firm, and serves on the board of several privately held companies. He was Carl H. Lindner’s assistant many years ago. He is currently the chairman of the Investment Committee that oversees the University’s endowment.

  • He attended Harvard Business School

Thomas E. Mischell

  • Mischell is a retired Senior Vice President from American Financial Group (owned by the Lindner family).

William C. "Wym" Portman III

  • Portman is the Director of Sustainability for Pon North America, which distributes industrial vehicles such as commercial vehicles and construction equipment (an industry that is inherently unsustainable). He was also CEO of Portman Equipment Company. This guy loves development! 

  • He’s a graduate of Kenyon College and received his MBA from the Amos Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth

Geraldine B. "Ginger" Warner

  • Warner is a retired attorney that practiced private and corporate law in New York, Maryland, California, and the District of Columbia (not Ohio). She is now the government relations specialist for Hunt Development Corporation

  • She’s a graduate of New York University of Law and did her undergraduate work at Cornell University.

Ronald D. Brown

  • Brown is a retired Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Milacron Inc., a leading supplier of plastics processing and industrial fluids technologies. 

  • He is the chairman of the Steering Committee for Leadership Cincinnati, a program under the Chamber of Commerce in Cincinnati (tasked with attracting business investment in the city)

Kim Heiman

  • Heiman is a former institutional equities and options trader with Paine Webber in New York City and a brokerage firm partner in Jerusalem. She is Managing Director at Standard Textile Co., and President and owner of SK Textile, a Los Angeles based textile fabricator for the hospitality industry.

Margaret K. "Peg" Valentine

  • Valentine is the Vice President of Valentine Research Inc., a privately-held company that designs, manufactures and markets consumer electronics. And get this- she’s the only trustee with a background in education! Way to go, Peg!

J. Phillip Holloman

  • Holloman was with Cintas for 22 years and held multiple high-ranking positions. He was recognized by Black Enterprise magazine as one of the “100 Most Powerful Executives in Corporate America” in 2009. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Board of Directors of the Cincinnati Center City Development Corporation, better known as 3CDC.

Monica Turner

  • Leader for P&G Sales in North America. 

  • Graduated from the University of Oklahoma.

And, the top paid administrators and athletic staff.

All UC employee salary's [4]

Neville Pinto

  • President

  • $660,000 salary (not including bonuses)

  • 50% higher salary than previous president

  • Gave himself a $50,000 bonus in 2019 after the BOT decided to raise tuition by 6%

    • This raise in tuition funds scholarships (mandated by the state) as well as the Next Lives Here strategic initiative (vague, but essentially a marketing strategy to increase student population and therefore bring more tuition revenue),

  • Acts as the face of and primary benefactor of the university's marketing tactics.

Kristi Nelson

  • Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs

  • $489,600 salary (not including bonuses)

  • VP of academic affairs' job is to maintain a distinctive academic vision (commitment to education).

  • Provosts oversee the bulk of the budget and administrative personnel, notably responsible for revenue-generating business operations like sports events, corporate sponsors and overall marketing strategy.

  • These two jobs rarely align, as the core academic mission cannot be upkept by sports and Pepsi sponsorships.

Karl Scheer

  • Chief Investment Officer

  • $438,600 salary (not including bonuses

  • According to a 2017 article, the endowment lost $9.3 million on hedge funds between 2015-2017.

  • Despite losses, UC’s general counsel’s office declared the holdings' content to be trade secrets exempt from the Ohio Public Records Act, which means UC students aren't allowed to see who their own school invests in.

  • Check out this CityBeat report on his money-losing investments



2 min read

As of 2017, UC’s athletics program faced a $102 million deficit over 4 years: meaning athletics has lost that money, and UC has to make up for it [5]. 


Also as of 2017, about $1,200 of each full time undergrad’s tuition was going towards covering this deficit, and that number has only increased [5].

Athletics is supposed to make money for the university, but is instead directly taking away from education. Athletics are believed to be worth the money since it attracts potential students- but it’s certainly not making $102 million in student tuition.


Many blame Title IX for universities' high athletics budgets. Meanwhile, compensation for the 71 coaches at UC makes up ⅓ of Athletics’ $66.8 million in expenses each year- with $33 million spent on salaries, bonuses, benefits, and severance pay [6]. Meanwhile, financial aid among 400 student athletes makes up a mere $9.8 million [6].

Title IX “requires that female and male student-athletes receive athletics scholarship dollars proportional to their participation.” It does not require an equal amount of financial aid for male and female athletes [7]. In 2019, female student athletes received a total of $3,826,218, while male athletes received $5,378,741 [6].

The figure above shows both the dollar amount each in-state undergrad student has paid toward the athletics subsidy every year (black), plus the percent of their tuition that is paid toward the subsidy (red), 2010-2017.

Below, the percent change in in-state tuition that is paid by students (red), and the percent change of the amount that is paid by each student toward the athletics subsidy (black), 2010-2017.

The Knight Commission increases transparency of spending by universities and their athletic programs, with the intention of increasing the quality of education for student athletes. This report is based off of data reported by UC. It not only outlines our excessive spending on facilities and paying coaches, but the fact that money spent on students has dropped significantly over the past few years.

See first and second chart for The News Record's data on athletic subsidies [6].

Luke Fickell

  • Football coach

  • Yearly salary of $2.4 million plus bonuses [8]

  • Attempted to leave for Michigan State and a salary of $5-6 million [9]

John Cunningham

  • Athletic Director

  • Yearly Salary of $475,000 [11]

  • Up to $50,000 a year in performance-based bonuses [11]

John Brannen

  • Men's Basketball Coach

  • Yearly salary of $1.5 million [10]


Next Lives... Where?

5 min read

Any student can remember going on college tours and every campus being under construction. But consider the cost. In just the past 5 years at UC, there have been a number of development projects underway or recently completed: the Fifth Third Arena Renovation, the 1819 Innovation Hub, Marian Spencer Dorm, and Clifton Court Hall (currently in planning).

There are conflicting reports on how much it cost to renovate the Fifth Third Bank Arena. The Board of Trustees approved $87 million for the project, however, they went into an executive session to discuss the approval of the funding. [1] These meetings are not  required by law to be reported to the public. According to another report, it took $93 million: $43 million was raised through donations, while another $50 million was covered by a loan presuming that it would be paid back with ticket sales, sponsorship revenues and the sale of concessions. [2] Because it is considered an investment, UC is not required to disclose the interest rate of this loan, so the public doesn’t know the full cost and how long it will take to pay off. [3] This is concerning to students who are likely to foot the bill with tuition, especially while games are halted during the pandemic.

Following a national trend within higher education for “Innovation Infrastructure”, the new 1819 Innovation Hub was built in 2018, running a hefty tag of $38 million dollars. [4] Many students wonder what purpose it serves. The building sits a mile from campus and is marketed to students and faculty as both a makerspace and a place to pitch business and product ideas: overall the function seems vague. Plus, this sort of project is not the priority when colleges themselves are underfunded. 

Despite any services offered to the UC community, it's the institution that seems to benefit the most. According to Ohio Revised Code 3349-20-50, “all discoveries or inventions resulting from research or investigations conducted in any college or university are the sole property of the university.” [5] This gives the university full control over the intellectual property and licensing rights of any “discoveries or inventions” made through using university property, i.e., the 1819 Innovation Hub. 

There is also substantial evidence to show that universities' role in producing IP and patents through startups and innovation infrastructure hardly offsets the actual cost of these massive development projects. Academic institutions accounted for a mere 2% (6,639 of 304,126) of the patents granted in 2016, according to the National Science Board, which described patenting by academic inventors as being “relatively limited”. [6, 7]

Startups from Wright State, Dayton, Xavier, and Cincy State are all eligible for 1819's services.

While housing is desperately needed to match rising enrollment, recently built dorms and housing projects like The Deacon and The Verge are increasingly unaffordable. New dorm buildings on campus like Marian Spencer, which took $49 million to build, rank as one of the most expensive in rent. Meanwhile Clifton Court Hall project is estimated to take $61 million, with projections of $86.5 million. [8]

A lack of transparency prevents us from knowing the full effects these development projects and loans have on the university’s finances. Since ~40% of UC’s revenue is tuition, it is likely that some of our tuition is being used to pay off these projects. [9] While we do not know the details of UC’s development financing, we do know that the administration is prioritizing marketing and networking for donations to fund construction. Meanwhile, various colleges, including A&S and CECH, suffer from budget deficits, shrinking administrative support for programming, and rely increasingly on adjuncts as fewer professors are offered tenure: all while class sizes grow. [10]

While colleges and academic programs suffer, the university tacks on huge amounts of debt for investments that are mainly cosmetic: renovations for basketball arenas, increasingly expensive dorms, and an Innovation Hub that goes largely unused. These do not benefit current and prospective students like increasing academic spending has and will. This is apparent now more than ever, as few of these buildings can even be used due to the pandemic, and the bandwidth of academic departments are stretched as thin as they are.

Did we miss something?
Tell us about it.