Dear Chancellors Circle members,
Happy New Year! Janessa and I send our best to you and your family for 2019 to be a year of hopes fulfilled. As we embrace the new year, all-in for fortunate and positive changes, I want to catch you up on the news since our fireside chat a few months back. If you recall, at our event I recounted the challenges facing higher education across the nation and at UA Little Rock specifically. Of top concern is falling enrollment that directly affects our tuition driven budgets. Misery loves company, and it is good to look around at other states for context. In Pennsylvania, for example, State support for its public institutions has fallen to 28%, there are fewer high school graduates, and there has been an 18% drop in enrollment since 2010. UA Little Rock does a little better with a less dramatic slide in enrollment and our state support is just under 39% of our budget. Hence the emphasis on increasing our enrollment!
To address immediate enrollment challenges, two much-respected long-time employees and caring supporters of the university, have come out of retirement to increase our student headcount for Fall 2019. We are fortunate to welcome back as consultants, Dr. Charles Donaldson and Mr. Preston Slayden. With their combined wealth of experience at UA Little Rock of 74 years, they deeply know and understand our institution. We are most fortunate to be able to engage them, as we work to rebuild our enrollment pipeline.
Prior to retirement, Dr. Donaldson served as Vice Chancellor for Educational and Student Services and Dean of University College. His educational background includes an Ed.D. from the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, and he has completed the prestigious Institute for Educational Management program at Harvard University and the Millennium Leadership Institute in Washington, D.C. Mr. Slayden began his career at UA Little Rock as a student counselor, and advanced to become Division Chief of Student Development and Dean of Students. He served our institution with distinction for 34 years and returned in 2017 as Interim Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs to lead, as we conducted a national search for that position. Mr. Slayden and Dr. Donaldson have agreed to help us over the next four months to increase the yield of the applicant pool and recruit last minute students to the university. They will also be advising us on retention strategies to help better retain our current students.
The presence of the eSTEM high school on the campus has been negatively influencing our enrollment. This is not surprising, since our students average 26 years of age, while the high school students range from 15 to 18 years. The maturity levels are vastly different, and the campus climate is tending towards a high school rather than a research university. The overcrowding in shared spaces frustrates our continuing students and potential recruits are looking to move on from their high school years. An independent study, to look at the feasibility of moving forward with the current co-mingled populations validated concerns about the sustainability of the current agreement on the health of both institutions. Accordingly, we are in the process of attempting to negotiate a temporary solution to move the high school students to space on the south end of campus in shopping mall space to serve as dining and waiting space when not in class. This would effectively remove all high school students from the majority of the campus. Discussions are underway regarding this, and we hope to move towards finding a permanent solution to benefit both institutions. This process is slow, much slower than is prudent to help our enrollment slide. However, the necessary changes do require the willingness of both institutions to consider the sustainability of the other.
Effective recruitment requires strong external messaging. While the university is clear on its mission: We are an urban comprehensive school, with strong research and scholarship opportunities for our students, and Division 1 Athletics. Yet we are not doing enough to distinguish ourselves and sell our merits to the community. We are actively recruiting a dynamic marketer to promote a united brand for UA Little Rock. This IS the university to attend if you want research active faculty who offer the opportunity for their students to engage in creative activity, guiding and inspiring them to connect with their major, often leading students to graduate school, (good for Arkansas!) This is a rare opportunity that uniquely equips our students to graduate with a research-rich resume and the hands-on practical experience sought after by today’s employers.
UA Little Rock Downtown opens to the public this January. The Center will be a recruitment center by day, and an event and community course space by night/weekends. In February, we begin our exciting Community Lecture Series by UA Little Rock Faculty for the pleasure and benefit of our friends and the downtown community. I will be holding the first lecture, (see invitation), and I hope to see you there! The Joe Jones Mural will be open to the public after we launch, and we are already booking school groups, anxious for the educational opportunities it inspires.
Thank you for your support and your faith in my leadership. There is much to be grateful for and to celebrate, as we begin our Spring Semester and complete school year 2018/2019. We embrace the challenges with a positive belief that good people, hard work, creative ingenuity, and the collective good will of our mission to benefit Arkansas, will take us further on.
Chancellor Andrew Rogerson