Chancellor Joel E. Anderson
August 24, 2012
Thank you President Laura Smith-Olinde. I am glad to see all of you as we start a new fall semester.
If you’ve been out of town all summer, you have missed some outstanding weather. It has broken records.
One Saturday morning Ann and I went early to the farmer’s market. On the way we passed a yard sale sign that said “7 a.m. until 100 degrees.” When we drove back by at 9:15 they were shutting it down!
To give you some actual facts, prior to this summer, the record in gallons of water pumped for one day by Central Arkansas Water was 121,000,000.
This summer that number has been exceeded eight separate days, with the all-time record coming on June 28th – 125,160,000 gallons.
It has been hot. I suppose it has been character building.
At this first University Assembly meeting of the year there are always numerous things on which I could report. I will keep reports to a minimum today, with only a couple of updates here at the start.
After several years, a chapter of campus expansion through capital projects is about to close.
We bought University Village late last year which brings our total residential student population to almost 1400 students.
Trojan Grill is now open. This facility will provide students with a late-night dining option.
The Student Services Center is completed and offers consolidated, convenient services for students. The SSC has expanded hours to better serve students. They are Monday through Thursday 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Friday 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. If you have the opportunity to visit the building, you will also note the professional dress you will see throughout the offices in the Student Services Center, as well as the Donaghey Student Center.
The Coleman Sports and Recreation Complex is open and has already provided a great home for sports activities. Sunday, the women’s soccer team hosted their first home game since UALR moved to NCAA Division I competition in 1978.
The only remaining construction project for this year is Administration South which has been vacated and is being renovated for the Nursing Program.
I was in communication yesterday with our Provost search consultant. I expect we will be able to have campus visits by the end of September. Let me say again I appreciate Sandra Robertson’s willingness to extend her time as Interim Provost.
Now…welcome to the newcomers to the university. We are glad you are here. We look forward to getting acquainted with you and working with you as you join us in pursuit of the University of Arkansas at Little Rock’s noble purposes. You have joined a university that is doing very well and that has a bright future.
As I stand before you, I feel very good about UALR’s upcoming year, and I want to tell you why.
I. Storm Clouds: National
At the same time, there are some storm clouds out there that I want to address. There is a lot of scary lightning and thunder in the atmosphere around us.
I will emphasize one storm cloud UALR faces that most of the other 4-year campuses in the state do not face.
A. Federal Budget Deficit
Many of you know that of each dollar spent by the Federal Government, 40 cents are borrowed. That would put any organization in deep debt, and this is unsustainable at the national level.
The outlook for addressing the Federal deficit is not good. There is much political division and acrimony in Washington coupled with paralysis in Congress. Also, in early 2013 the budget deal expires and in the absence of any bipartisan agreement will cause automatic tax increases and spending cuts. The borrowing ceiling will be hit again.
The upcoming election is not only for a president and vice president, but also 535 members of Congress.
All of this is to say there is much uncertainty lurking at the national level and things could go badly for higher education.
B. Pell Grants on Chopping Block
Because of all the spending cuts that may be necessary, one area that will most likely see a decrease in funding is the Pell Grant program.
Students at universities across the country depend a great deal on Pell Grants to help cover the costs of their education. These funds are also beneficial to universities as a source of tuition payments.
According to the U. S. Department of Education, in fiscal year 2011, there was about $36 billion available in Pell Grants.
In academic year 2011, 81,287 Arkansas students received a little over $307 million dollars and UALR students received $17 million. This is a source of a large piece of the tuition payments UALR receives from students!
II. Storm Clouds: Arkansas
State support is declining and tuition is rising, and, tuition increases are understandably criticized. Last year for the first time, UALR students paid a greater percentage of the university’s budget in tuition and fees than did the state. As you can see from the chart, over the last ten years, state support declined, tuition and fees have gone up, so our revenue has essentially remained level over a ten-year period, despite rising expenses.
Another problem is the impact of tuition on families. When you compare UALR’s tuition to universities in other states, our tuition is quite reasonable. But, when you compare the cost of tuition to the median household income of Arkansas families, you get a different picture.
2010 U. S. Census data show that the median household income in Arkansas is $39,367. UALR’s tuition is 19 percent of that. Nineteen percent of your total income is a sizeable chunk to pay for anything. One-third of UALR entering freshman reported their household income as $36,000 or less. So you see the challenge they face in paying the cost of going to college.
Performance funding is also here. You will recall that Goal 1 of our revised strategic plan is Student Success. Performance funding assumes this goal and is heavily based on the retention and graduation of students in an effort to meet the challenges to double the number of college graduates by 2025.
Next year, 2013, is the base year for performance funding, and in 2014 we stand to gain or lose five percent of our state appropriations depending on how we fare on the performance measures. The next year it will be 10 percent and so on, until we reach 25 percent.
We need to be very serious about those new state performance measures.
Another looming storm cloud is the upcoming election. The political landscape in Arkansas has been changing and is beginning to look more like that of Washington.
Here is my prediction: For higher education in Arkansas, things will get better, or stay the same, or get worse!
That is a way of saying that all bets are off until after the election. Uncertainty at the state level means that things could go badly for higher education at the state level as well as the federal level. As we look ahead we have to be mindful of that.
II. Storm Cloud: UALR
Since both major sources of funding—state appropriation & tuition–tie directly to enrollment and student semester credit hours, enrollment is a serious issue.
Our own campus storm cloud is flat enrollment. Here is what is happening. Overall, enrollment has been increasing statewide, but we have not been getting our share of that increase. That means our share of state dollars for higher education is shrinking.
This year Arkansas State University and the University of Arkansas- Fayetteville received notable increases in their state appropriations because of enrollment growth, while we received almost no increase in state appropriation.
Therefore recruiting, retaining, and graduating students must be everyone’s business! Our ability to do the other things we want to do is tied to enrollment.
We need to set and meet goals. We will look to the new Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management to help us do that in an informed and realistic way.
We need to determine what we want the composition of our student body to look like in 2020. What percentages of residential, graduate, law, transfer, online, and adult learners?
IV. Responding to the Storm Clouds
I have identified some storm clouds, not all of them out there, but the big ones that we must be mindful of—and we must be ready in the event they change from the status of clouds to the status of a storm. So how are we responding?
For several months the university has worked with Stamats, a national consulting firm that specializes in recruitment, retention, and marketing strategies, to determine the best way to manage and reorganize our operations to achieve our goals.
One recommendation Stamats provided was to hire a Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management to focus responsibility and give her or him the authority to lead and coordinate our recruiting and retention efforts.
Vice Chancellor for Development Bob Denman is chairing the search committee and three finalists will be on campus in the first two weeks of September. Please participate in the opportunities you will have to meet and evaluate them. Your feedback is important.
The new Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management (VCEM) will bring clarified purpose and vision to the recruitment, admission, and retention of undergraduate and graduate students.
There will be several units brought together under the VCEM: recruitment, admissions, financial aid, registration and records, private scholarships, international student services, and veterans’ services.
Former Director of Recruitment Cleveland James left us in July. Until the new VCEM is hired, Katie Young is serving as Interim Director of Recruitment. Many of you know of her leadership and success in recruiting for the Donaghey College of Engineering and Information Technology. I expect everyone to lend whatever support we can to Katie and her staff in the interim and to the new VCEM in the future.
To be competitive, we have taken a number of important steps in recent years that have probably helped hold our ground in the competition with other institutions.
We have increased the number of merit scholarships including the Donaghey Scholars Program, the Chancellor’s Leadership Corps, and various Academic scholarships.
We have also revised our admission standards with one result being an academically stronger entering freshman class and improved retention.
Student housing has also become a very important tool in attracting academically strong high school graduates.
Our new buildings, renovated buildings, as well as investments in equipment and in the appearance of the campus grounds are all essential to being competitive with other campuses.
On all those points we received significant help from private donors in the comprehensive campaign—new buildings, renovations of buildings, equipment, and campus beautification.
Along with all of those things, campus safety has serious implications for enrollment. Students will not enroll or stay if they do not feel safe. In a few weeks we will reach the first anniversary of the abduction and murder of Patricia Guardado. That tragic event underscored again the importance of campus safety to everyone who is part of this or any campus community. People want to be safe and feel safe.
We continue to take steps to that end. Over the last year we have:
- Added additional cameras in parking lots
- Put a permanent trolley system in place. In the spring of 2012, the trolleys averaged 1,000 riders per week. AGPS system was also installed to allow real-time tracking of Dolly and Polly’s location—yes, they are named Dolly and Polly. There is an app for that. Tracking can also be done on-line.
- The Green Dot Program got under way last spring and will be rolled out later this year.
The program originated at the University of Kentucky and has now been put in place in 37 states at a variety of college and high school campuses. We are the first in Arkansas to participate to the best of my knowledge.
The program addresses issues of power-based violence, such as sexual assault, stalking, elder, and child abuse. It will be a campus-wide effort to build community and establish a culture that lets everyone know that at UALR – we look out for each other.
Stay tuned for the launching of the Green Dot program later in the year. It enjoys excellent faculty and staff leadership, and I believe it will be very good for our campus.
V. A Closer Look at the Numbers
Let me turn now to one other important measure we are taking, given the gathering storm clouds, particularly the enrollment cloud UALR is facing.
It is a step in part in response to the threats I have described. It is also something that grows out of a lot momentum already present at UALR, as you will see. Let’s take a closer look at the enrollment numbers.
The moral of the story in these numbers is that UALR is better funded, in both state appropriation and tuition and fee revenue, because of on-line enrollment and high school concurrent enrollment.
Today, I am not addressing high school concurrent enrollment—although it has been important to us and we are not making the most of the opportunity it represents. I want to focus here on on-line enrollment.
VI. Distance Education – In summary
I want to say that on-line programs and degrees are not the future of higher education, but they are a part, an important part, of the future of higher education.
Indeed, the numbers show that on-line offerings are already an important part of UALR’s present and certainly its future. Distance education has become another way UALR is able to provide a quality education to more students. Content is king – the platform for delivery is not the only thing that makes distance education work. Dr. Don Bobbitt, new UA System President, is certainly placing an emphasis on distance education.
UALR’s online student semester credit hours (SSCH) have grown tremendously over the past few years from a few hundred to over 70,000.
I know that not everyone will be directly involved in the delivery of distance education. As a community, we will keep doing most of the campus-based teaching and research and service activities that we currently do. But, there will be more colleagues directly involved in distance education, and it behooves everyone else to appreciate and support and not obstruct their efforts.
VII. Sources of Confidence
Frankly, I approach the challenges and opportunity of on-line programs with much confidence. I approach this year, despite the very significant storm clouds that are quite visible all around us, with confidence. Why? How could that be?
As chancellor of UALR, I sit in a wonderful position. No, that is not a reference to an office with a window in the new Student Services Center.
This university is highly relevant, that is to say important, in addressing the needs of many people and many needs of the State of Arkansas. It is also stable and financially lean, but solid. We also have wonderful faculty and staff serving at our university.
But with regard to distance education, there is a much more concrete reason.
Why am I not anxious, nervous, and worried about the impact of this new, disruptive technology? Because for UALR it is not new!
Last year our faculty produced 71,735, or 25% of our total SSCH in completely on-line courses.
But these numbers are more interesting in the 2011-2012 academic year:
- Last year UALR offered 381 separate courses and 1,223 sections that were on-line only.
- Also, 284 UALR faculty taught courses that were completely on-line (not blended).
So you see, for UALR it is not new! We are already doing it, and have been for a decade! Our faculty know the challenges and the opportunities and are accustomed to dealing with them. Because of our pioneers here and the number of years we have been doing it, we have a substantial base of experience.
We can move forward more confidently than any other campus in the state with regard to the opportunities and challenges of distance education.
So why shouldn’t the chancellor of UALR be confident as higher education faces this new, disruptive technology?
I can point to the faculty and staff and say you are why I am confident—you know what you are doing and will do it right.
My response to this new disruptive technology and the storm clouds out there:
Bring ‘em on!