Hocking College expense reports show that college President Betty Young spent more than $55,000 in college funds on travel-related expenses for the 27 months between November 2016 and February 2019.
The trips – which Young in an interview earlier this year argued were necessary to continue the community college’s mission – included travel to New Delhi, India; Jamaica; Las Vegas, Nevada; Andros Island (the Bahamas); New York City; New Orleans; and a variety of other locations.
Many of the trips were to yearly conferences hosted by organizations of which Hocking College is a member, Young said. Those include the American Association of Community Colleges, Community Colleges of Appalachia, and the Association of Community College Trustees.
In the interview earlier this spring, she staunchly defended the necessity of the expenditures and her own ethical behavior. Young said she believes she’s frugal in her expenditures, noting that she never flies first class, regularly tries to find good deals on flights, and often spends her own money when paying for meals above the college’s per diem prices (which are set at $6 for breakfast, $8 for lunch and $16 for dinner).
“My reputation, my ethics of how I operate, is too critical to ever do anything that wouldn’t be working for the institution… and the same thing for the Board (of Trustees), too,” Young said.
As a comparison, Ohio University President Duane Nellis had roughly $26,000 in travel expenditures in the full year between Sept. 1, 2017 and Sept. 1, 2018, according to records obtained by The NEWS. The NEWS plans on writing a follow-up story on travel expenditures at OU in the future.
While that amount, if extrapolated out to the 27 months reflected in the Hocking College travel-expense report, would exceed the amount spent for President Young, OU is a much bigger institution, with fundraising and alumni networking being key parts of of Nellis’ duties as president.
Young, however, argued that her travels help bring grant funding to Hocking College and assist in forging partnerships between the college and other organizations.
For example, Hocking College has a partnership with the country of Jamaica’s Ministry of Education, and as of last spring, Hocking had five exchange students from Jamaica (this fall Hocking will have students go to Jamaica). She also said that the ministry pays Hocking to perform training for Jamaican professors and high-school teachers.
Young’s trip to Jamaica in July 2017 (for six days) included a $1,105 stay at two hotels, $911 for airfare and $427 in other expenses. She had another seven-day trip to Jamaica in 2018 but that trip was paid for by the country, according to the documents provided by the college.
One of the most expensive trips for Young during the time period outlined above was roughly $3,448 for a flight to New Delhi, India, and her hotel there, for a 10-day trip in 2017, which included $386 in other expenses (including the school paying for her to buy a $31.55 India flag). Young said that trip was necessary because she was being recognized for her work with the college by the ALL Ladies League, a large international women’s chamber of commerce, during the Women Economic Forum.
Meanwhile, the trip to Andros Island in the Bahamas was a relatively short one, with no hotel involved and airfare costing about $960, with one $287 dinner meeting and $220 in other expenditures. Young explained that that trip was necessary because Hocking College has a field station on Andros Island as a part of its ecotourism program. That also has led to a burgeoning partnership with the Bahamas Institute of Marina and Agricultural Sciences, she said. She noted that that was a short trip.
“Do you think we sunned on the beach? No,” she said.
From an Athens NEWS analysis of the data provided by the College, Young has accured at least $55,000 in travel-related expenses from Nov. 2016 to February 2019 (the total The NEWS counted after tallying every single expenditure was roughly $58,000).
Other travels of Young’s that are noteworthy include:
• A labor law and labor arbitration conference in Miami Beach, Florida, for two days in 2018 with a $971 registration and hotel fee, $557 for airfare, and $169 in food expenditures. Young said she was “just staying current in the field,” adding that the college had to prepare for the “next round of labor negotiations.”
• A four-day trip in 2018 to the Black, Brown and College Bound 2018 conference, with a $595 registration fee, a $3,137 hotel stay (although that included three students as well), a $593 dinner, a $121 lunch, and roughly $88 in other expenditures
• Young traveling to Kansas City, Missouri, to receive an award during the Phi Theta Kappa Convention in 2018 at a cost of $1,431, which included a $314.71 “dinner for students” and an $8 purchase of “books for office.”
• A five-day trip to Dana Point, California, for the 2018 Presidents Academy Summer Institute, with a registration fee of $1,000, a $2,286 stay at a hotel, and a $662 expense on a car rental, in addition to $199 spent on meals and parking, as well as $536 in airfare. She went to another such PASI conference in 2017, which included a Title IX conference at a cost of at least $4,600.
• A two-day trip to Hot Springs, Virginia, for the 2017 Rural Conference Omni Homestead, with a $600 registration fee, a $1,369 hotel stay, one $313 dinner meeting, a separate $189 dinner meeting, about $16 on a book about “moonshine,” and roughly $90 in other expenditures.
• A short trip to Cincinnati in 2017 for a “managing emotions” seminar with self-help author Fred Pryor, at a cost of $149 for registration, $98 for a hotel stay, and $46 in other costs. Young said she went to this seminar with “leaders from around campus” as a part of a yearly effort to bring further training to those individuals.
• A three-day trip to Las Vegas in 2017 for the 2017 Association of Community College Trustees, costing $940 for registration, $470 for the hotel, $423 for airfare, $100 in other expenses and an unexplained $485.42 expenditure (there’s no reasoning listed for this expenditure).
YOUNG SAID THAT SHE OFTEN works weekends, including when she has to travel. At the end of that, she comes right back to the college without a day off, she added.
Young took issue with The NEWS even requesting these documents in the first place, arguing that “this is not free” to provide the roughly 50-plus pages of public records that constituted these travel expense reports.
“I’m glad to provide you with all the information you want, just understand that it’s 15 hours of somebody’s work that the institution has to pay for, and if it’s going to provide you with something worth it, great, OK?” she said.
Young added that several trips she’s made to events hosted by the Appalachian Regional Commission and the Higher Learning Commission have led to direct benefits for the college, including the college’s continued accreditation with the Higher Learning Commission and a $1.4 million grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission.
Hocking spokesperson Tim Brunicardi provided a list of several grants that Hocking has obtained in recent years, although it’s important to note that the college employs several full-time employees devoted to grant applications. They include
• A $1.4 million Appalachia RISES grant in 2016 from the ARC.
• A $133,000 grant in 2017 from the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
• A $61,000 RAPIDS grant in 2017 from the Ohio Department of Higher Education.
• A $500,000 grant in 2017 from the Appalachian Regional Commission (called the Innovation Gateway of Appalachian Ohio)
• A $24,000 grant from the ARC in 2017 for “Entre Ed”, and a $30,000 boat safety education grant from the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (also in 2017)
• A $150,000 workforce revolving loan fund from the ODHE in 2018.
• A $179,000 short-term certificate grant in 2018 from the ODHE.
• A $75,000 grant from the USDA in 2018 for “developing a regional education program in sustainable land reclamation management in central Ohio.”
• A $16,500 grant from the Ohio Soybean Council for the “evaluation of soybean-based diets for commercial scale farming of yellow perch and rainbos trout.”
• A $160,000 RAPIDS grant from the ODHE in 2019.
• A $50,000 grant from the ARC in 2019 for the Appalachian Recovery Project.
Young also responded to a question about how the college’s budget is doing after speaking about her travels. She said that the college has placed $1 million into reserves each year for the last four years, and has reinvested millions of dollars each year into facilities renovations and purchases.
“It’s a renaissance period for this institution, fiscally and in terms of new programs and in terms of new ways of doing business,” Young said.
She touted those new programs, as well as Hocking’s efforts to bring high-school students to Hocking through the College Credit Plus system. The NEWS previously reported that Hocking’s enrollment appears to be up in recent semesters after years of enrollment declines; however, much of that has to do with far larger numbers of College Credit Plus students, who are typically not taking a full course load. The numbers remain far lower than Hocking’s peak enrollment of 6,599 in fall 2010.