By Kristina Goetz
The Cincinnati Enquirer
The heir apparent to Joseph Steger as president of the University of Cincinnati comes with glowing endorsements from friends and associates alike.
High praise aside, Nancy L. Zimpher, chancellor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, will have plenty of challenges before her, namely funding. This fall, for example, UC students will pay 9.9 percent more in tuition than a year ago, the third-highest dollar increase since 1979.
UC's Board of Trustees will be counting on Zimpher to meet that challenge and many others when it is expected to vote to hire her at a 9 a.m. meeting today at the Kingsgate Conference Center on campus.
Zimpher, 56, is the only finalist that the 13-member presidential search committee will put forward.
If approved, Zimpher would be the 25th president and first woman to lead the 184-year-old institution.
She would also lead the state's second-largest school, a public research university that has 33,000 students and has undergone a campus transformation with more than $1 billion spent on infrastructure in the past decade.
As UC president, she would also oversee the city's largest employer (more than 14,000 employees) and an institution that earns more than $260 million in annual research funding.
As word spread of the recommendation Monday, professors and administrators discussed what they had heard of Zimpher, including her dynamic personality.
Colleagues and city officials say she's a leader who can bring about change and is someone who believes the university has a role in the community.
Neither board members nor Zimpher would comment Monday.
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"While we regret not having had the chance to meet with Dr. Zimpher during the search process, initial reports of her achievements thus far are very encouraging," said John Brackett, president of the UC's chapter of the American Association of University Professors.
Reports from a colleague, he said, describe her as a great educational leader, a reformer and union friendly.
Steger said Zimpher must focus on fund-raising, the endowment and research efforts to ensure UC's budget stays balanced.
"There are many things you'd like to spend money on, but you have to set priorities," he said. "It's a chore. It's a real difficult balance to keep all these things going."
In the past three years, tuition for in-state students has increased $2,286, or 42.8 percent, at UC.
When fall classes start, the net tuition and fees students pay will become the largest portion of general fund revenues for the first time in the history of the university.
State appropriations now make up 23 percent of the 2003-04 budget while students contribute 26 percent.
Those tuition increases are a result of dwindling state subsidies. Since 2001, the state share of instruction funding for UC has decreased by $17.7 million. Because of that decline, the burden of paying the university's fixed expenses and new initiatives will be made through tuition increases and small increases in other income, financial officials have said.
Zimpher is no stranger to declining state support. The University of Wisconsin System's Board of Regents this month approved a 2003-04 budget that raises tuition and shows the effects of $110 million in state funding cuts. It is the largest cut the UW system, which consists of 26 campuses, has ever faced, officials said.
The Milwaukee campus is the UW system's urban university and one of only two that offers doctoral degrees.
State support makes up 27.3 percent of the UW system budget in 2003-04, a decrease from 30.9 percent in 2002-03. In 1973-74, the first full year of operation for the UW system, state support comprised 49.9 percent of the university budget. New student tuition dollars are making up for some of the state-funding drop.
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