Fall Faculty Remarks

Monday, September 16, 2013

Good afternoon everyone. Judy and I are thrilled to be here at UNI. We thoroughly enjoy getting to meet each and every one of you – and we enjoy the Cedar Valley. 

We look forward to attending as many cultural and fine arts events on campus as possible, hosting you for a dinner or reception, attending faculty and student performances, lectures, as well as other great events. I am very excited about having the opportunity to personally get to know each of you. It is an honor to be here, to serve you and work with you at THE only regional comprehensive university in this state.

Already in my 109 calendar days of being at UNI, I have witnessed your impressive work. You keep teaching and learning at the core of your work and you continue to complete intensive research and discovery as well as service and engagement. I hear from students often – that their work with the faculty in the classrooms, labs, performance studios, and the lessons and coaching they receive is outstanding. The students have decisively stated – faculty make a difference in their success.  

Clearly, you must also be making an impact in a student’s time to degree – their completion rate. 

Because as you probably read recently in U.S. News & World Report, we retained our No. 2 ranking among Public Regional Midwest Universities, and our ranking in the category of the combined Private and Public Regional Midwest Universities improved from No. 22 to No. 13.

One reason for this improved ranking is due to a new calculation comparing actual vs. expected graduation rate. For example, with our student profile we were expected to have a 54 percent six-year graduation rate.  However, we actually had a 66 percent six-year graduation rate! This ranking is great news, and we will continue our efforts to ensure students persist and graduate in a timely manner.

I think it’s important I share with you my four main goals for this year:

  • Recruitment Efforts and Focus
  • Quality, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Accountability
  • Accessibility, Affordability and Student Success
  • Relationships with Key Stakeholders

The goal of recruitment and retention of students will be our top priority given our enrollment challenges during the past two years. This year, we have a total enrollment of 12,159. Yes, this enrollment is less than last fall by 114 students, but there are so many positive numbers to report. This exceeds our budgeted enrollment projection of 11,800 by 359 students.

We also experienced:

  • An increase of 3.3 percent in new students
  • An increase of 1.1 percent in new students direct from high school
  • An increase of 20.8 percent in new graduate students
  • An increase of 11.4 percent in new international students
  • And, total minority enrollment held steady at 8.1 percent, but we will work diligently to address this. I firmly believe that we will increase our minority student enrollment as we move forward. 

In addition, we also experienced an improvement in our student retention rate. The rate of students returning for a second year this fall is 82.9 percent, which is an increase of 1.6 percent from last year, and it's the highest retention rate at UNI since 2007. Comparatively, the national average for retention at institutions similar to UNI is 71.7 percent. 

Our students continue to graduate sooner and with less debt, as we had nearly an 8 percent in student indebtedness during the 2012-13 academic year. Each of you play a key role in these efforts. Research has proven that often times, in fact, most times, as we at UNI puts students first, it is the relationship a faculty member has with a student that makes a difference in a student’s decision to challenge themselves, complete research and in some cases, even stay enrolled.  

And we know from a recruitment perspective, that if a student connects with a faculty member, whether it's at an open house event or a scholarship competition, the student is more likely to apply and enroll. Students are impressionable and wise to know and understand the importance of having the opportunity to work closely with a faculty member. Let me take the opportunity to thank you for your commitment and for your future efforts to help with the recruitment and retention of students… especially at our three Fall Open Houses on Sept. 28, Oct. 19, and Nov.9.

We also need to continue to increase the diversity of both domestic and international students at UNI.

Increasing efforts will be given to our enrollment management structure and processes to include even more robust and effective out-of-state recruitment and retention; especially in those states that border Iowa with the potential for initiating an alternative tuition program. In our student recruitment efforts, we will engage alumni both inside and outside of Iowa as well as our current students with their hometown high schools. We will also expand and strengthen our partnerships with Iowa Community Colleges. 

Now, from a BUDGET perspective, what impact does this enrollment number have? As I have said, we budgeted for 11,800 students, so starting with 12,159 students is excellent. We knew we had a $590,000 deficit to address this fall and every 100 full-time student’s nets approximately $550,000 in tuition revenue.

However, we need to also analyze the mix of students enrolled, full-time, part-time and out-of-state, all variables that have an impact on tuition revenue. At this time, we can be assured we have addressed our current year budget deficit; and soon we will know more regarding any additional revenue that can be allocated strategically. If there are additional funds, we need to look at our high-demand academic areas that need additional funds to grow. 

  1. 1.     Quality, Efficiency, Effectiveness and Accountability: 

The quality of our academic and non-academic programs must be maintained and enhanced. Any new and reallocated resources will have to be intentionally distributed to strategic areas of demand and emerging importance. 

There is a clear and distinct need for a new budget model for distributing state appropriations. To address this, the Board of Regents has appointed a task force, led by former Regent David Miles, which is reviewing a new budget model. 

We are hopeful they are considering a new model based partially on our current incremental model of funding a base amount and including some incentive-based funding to promote innovation and growth. This new model must also be transparent, inclusive and strategic. 

  1. 2.     Accessibility, Affordability and Student Success: 

We will implement strategic efforts to increase student access and student success. Awarding financial aid assistance based on a student’s demonstrated financial need and recruiting high-quality students will remain a priority. We will also work on our marketing efforts to support and positively impact enrollment and brand recognition of UNI. Scott Ketelsen is our new director of University Relations and we look forward to his leadership in new marketing, branding and strategic communications efforts.

To address affordability and accessibility for students, the Board of Regents approved on Sept. 11 a proposal to put forth to the legislature that includes:

  • Freezing tuition for undergraduate resident students for the second consecutive year, provided the general assembly approves an additional 4 percent for inflation of $3.7 M
  • We are seeking our current base appropriation of  $83.2 M
    • And funds to address our fiscal stabilization (disparate impact) of $10 M. This is one-time money for this year, and we need to make these funds a permanent part of our base appropriations. The result is that we would have a FY 2015 general fund base budget of $96.9 M. Again, this is proposed. The governor and the legislature will weigh in and decide on this request next spring.

We are also seeking funds for:

Strategic Initiatives:

  • Bachelor of Applied Science $3.0 M (over two years)
  • Entrepreneur Outreach Program $1.5 M; which includes Business Concierge, Network Iowa, AppsLab, Local Foods Entrepreneurship Support, UNI MarketPlace
  • Governor’s STEM Advisory Council Initiative $5.2 M
  1. 3.     Relationships with Key Stakeholders: 

I will work to continue to strengthen the relationships with and among faculty, staff and students. In addition, the external relationships among alumni, donors, state legislators, the governor, other elected officials and friends of the university must be second to none. 

And, we will continue our ambitious external fundraising and friend raising. Currently, we have successfully raised nearly $11M toward a $40M scholarship fundraising goal. As we begin to craft our 2015-2020 University Strategic Plan, we must also examine the next two fundraising timeframes: 2015-2019 and 2019-2026 (2026 is UNI’s 150th anniversary and the 100th anniversary of the Campanile). 

As you can see from my last goal, it's important to me to be inclusive and collaborative. You may have noticed I will send out messages to campus more frequently and I want to share information. 

Information is powerful, and sharing information is even more powerful. It's important that I keep all of you informed and engaged in the process and our strategic goals.

I am optimistic and excited for this year. We have made some structural organizational changes. We have a 43-member cabinet group that includes all the academic deans, administrators, the faculty senate chair, the united faculty president, representatives of all our staff organizations - Professional & Scientific, Supervisory & Confidential, and Merit/AFSCME - and our students will have their voice heard on the cabinet as well. I am committed to working with everyone - faculty, staff and students - for the betterment of this great university. We will move forward.

I wish you all a great 2013-14 year and thank you for all you do for UNI!