On a day when some students protest over rising college costs, Kent State University trustees voted Wednesday to increase tuition for the fall semester at its eight campuses.

With the 2 percent increase — matching the state limit — tuition at KSU’s main campus will rank right in the middle of Ohio’s 13 public universities. Effective for the 2014-2015 academic year, full-time undergraduates will pay $5,006 each semester, an increase of $98. Graduate tuition will increase $104 to $5,326 per semester.

Earlier Wednesday, about a dozen students gathered in Risman Plaza to contest what they call a “student debt crisis” at KSU. They focused on two causes: the rise in tuition and the university cap on credit hours.

They would like to see KSU remove its 16 credit-hour cap. Students must pay $440 per credit hours above 16. Many other universities have higher limits — or none.

“The issue of student debt has been ignored, which has allowed it to grow like a weed, strangling our livelihoods and the education we want and deserve,” said Cassandra Cecil, a sophomore psychology major from Wadsworth. She is a member of the Kent chapter of the Ohio Student Association, which is leading the campaign to curb tuition increases.

“Education should be a right, not a privilege,” Cecil said. “Next year, we will come back stronger.”

Cecil said the tuition hike “is not going to stop us. We aren’t going to back down.”

The students did not attend the trustees’ meeting but did talk with some university officials.

The additional tuition revenue, including increases at the College of Podiatric Medicine of 4.5 percent, will raise about $11 million for the university’s bottom line. Trustees noted that more than half of that new money will be allocated to increases in student scholarships.

Wednesday’s meeting was the last for retiring President Lester Lefton and other key staff, and it was filled with goodbyes.

The board passed a resolution of appreciation for Lefton’s eight years in Kent and awarded him the title “president emeritus,” effective July 1.

In a video presentation, Lefton’s family, executive staff and acquaintances spoke of his accomplishments: a leadership legacy of increasing student retention and graduation; setting records for enrollment and fundraising; his key role in the transformation of downtown Kent connecting the campus to the city; and for bringing back homecoming parades at the university.

The tribute noted the cowboy hat he wore in the parades.

Lefton was described as a visionary with energy, leadership with passion and as a lover of Broadway musicals who was fond of saying, “Resistance is futile.”

The board also said goodbye to its chair, Jane Murphy Timken, and named her trustee emeritus of KSU. She is ending a nine-year term on the board and has served on every committee and held all of the board’s leadership positions.

Trustees on Wednesday also:

•?Approved a $648 million operating budget for the university’s eight-campus system for the fiscal year July 1, 2014, to June 30, 2015.

Priorities include additional investments in student financial aid, costs associated with contract agreements with employees represented by bargaining units, compensation increases for unrepresented employees, anticipated increases in health-insurance costs for employees, investments in facilities repairs and improvement, support for library collections and support for international programs.

•?Authorized changes in a variety of course fees and other student fees.

Changes include both the elimination of 17 fees in the College of Nursing and 11 fee increases in the College of Applied Engineering, Sustainability and Technology related to the helicopter training program.

•?Eliminated Visual Journalism as a major.

The photojournalism concentration was moved to the journalism major within the bachelor’s of science degree. The Visual Journalism major was established in 1998, but enrollment has averaged only 20 students per year for the past 10 years.

The lone faculty member who taught in the concentration left last year and was not replaced, so admission into the concentration was suspended in 2013.

Students who are enrolled in the photojournalism concentration can still graduate with the Visual Journalism major or may choose to change the major to journalism.

•?Issued a resolution of appreciation to Eugene Finn, KSU’s vice president of institutional advancement, who will step down July 31 to take a leadership position at Columbia University. He was one of the primary fundraisers for the university.

•?Elected its new officers for 2014-2015: Dennis Eckart as chair; Stephen Colecchi as vice chair and Richard Marsh as secretary.

•?Said goodbye to three deans: David Mohan, who is retiring after 10 years as dean at the Geauga branch; Gregory Andrews, dean at the Tuscarawas branch, who is leaving after 18 years; and Stanley Wearden, dean of the College of Communication and Information on the main campus, who will step down to become senior vice president and provost of Columbia College in Chicago on July 1.

Marilyn Miller can be reached at 330-996-3098 or mmiller@thebeaconjournal.com