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From CFO to Provost: UToledo’s prescription for fundamental higher education change

While it isn’t his goal, University of Toledo President Lloyd Jacobs knows he might be starting a fight.

On Thursday, Jacobs recommended to his Board of Trustees Dr. Scott Scarborough, a man with more than 20 years of leadership in university finance, operations and business affairs – three of those coming as UT’s CFO. Most recently, Scarborough has served as senior vice president and executive director of UT’s 223-bed Medical Center.

If approved, Scarborough will be UT’s next provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. Jacobs acknowledges it is an almost unheard of career trajectory, but points out that new ideas and higher education don’t seem to often mesh.

“Higher education is in need of fundamental change,” Jacobs said, noting that this national rhetorical consensus has been primarily met by colleges and universities changing verylittle. “As an industry we’re rapidly pricing ourselves out of the market for our primary audience and many students and families are starting to wonder if the return on investment makes sense.

For far too long, Jacobs said, universities have adapted students to institutional cultures, traditions and methods rather than the school adapting to students’ needs.

“Too often universities offer the courses they want to offer while students struggle to graduate on time because too few class sections are available to meet student demand. Those days areover,” Jacobs said. “The debate as to whether students are our customers is over. They have money and they have the choice of where or whether to invest in a college degree. That’s the definition of a customer.”

Jacobs said Scarborough’s business and health care experience make him the perfect choice for a provost’s office and a University that is focusing its strategies on students’ success above all else.

“At The University of Toledo, educational experiences will be rigorous and challenging,” Scarborough said. “But enrollment and registration processes, obtaining timely access to an academic adviser or a tutor, and meeting faculty during office hours should be simple, easy and convenient. The notion that enhancing the customer experience somehow minimizes the strength of the education we provide has long struck me as a false argument and an insult to our outstanding faculty.”

A non-traditional university leader himself as a U.S. Marine and former vascular surgeon, Jacobs has long rejected the belief that higher education is immune to the changing technological and chronological realities of the global economy.

“I have often spoken about The University of Toledo as a relevant University,” Jacobs said. “To be relevant, institutions have to change at least as quickly as the population and society they serve. To be a leader, they have to change more quickly. Higher education is in need of fundamental change and The University of Toledo is taking action.”

is UT's Director of University Communications. Contact her at 419.530.2410 or
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