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Ohio State President Drake Touts Successes In Final School Address

Ohio State president Michael Drake is leaving his position at the end of the school year.
The Ohio State University

Ohio State University president Michael Drake gave his final "State of the University" address Thursday, speaking about student debt as well as mental health.

Drake’s speech comes as the university celebrates its 150th anniversary. He noted more students are graduating at a quicker rate and with less debt—in his words, the school’s mission made manifest.

“The students graduating without debt and the fact that all those who are graduating with debt have less, that totals tens of millions of dollars per graduating class less debt than would have been the case three or four years ago,” Drake said. “It’s really quite a burden, and we’re glad to see that going down.”

Last week, state Rep. Catherine Ingram (D-Cincinnati) called on state education officials to look into Pell grant admissions at seven Ohio universities, including Ohio State. A study found the schools had a three-year average Pell enrollment rate of less than 20%.

But in his remarks, Drake said those admissions are on the upswing.

“We’ve also seen a 20% increase among new first-year Pell students and new first generation students since 2015,” Drake said. “So we have more work to do, and we will continue to focus and our efforts on increasing access to students from all backgrounds, but we’ve made tremendous, tremendous progress.”

Drake also acknowledged the ongoing challenge of addressing mental health on campus.

“Our students and staff worked with Apple to develop a new app designed to assist Buckeyes in navigating mental health and wellness resources, and support services that were present here on our campus, and we were pleased to launch that app just this week,” Drake said.

He touted a so-called "warm line" as well, which launched last year and is meant to be there when students just need someone to talk to or help accessing available resources.

During a question and answer portion, Drake explained he makes a point of trying to speak with each family that loses a student during their time at Ohio State, and he’s been struck by how deep and positive the connection has been between students and the school.

“No matter what the circumstances of their leaving, they say, 'Gosh, this is the worst day of my life. This is a nightmare,'” Drake said of the parents. “The last conversation was a week-and-a half ago, and [she] described it as a nightmare. But in the conversation, this was a grandmother who had raised our student, [she] said, 'But I just wanted to let you know how much he loved his time at the Ohio State University.'”

Drake announced his plans to step down last November, but he plans to stay with the university in a faculty role.

Nick Evans was a reporter at WOSU's 89.7 NPR News. He spent four years in Tallahassee, Florida covering state government before joining the team at WOSU.