Addressing challenges with a Strategic Plan09/17/2018
The official fall 2018 enrollment census underscores the continuing challenge facing all of us at The University of Akron.
The enrollment headcount is 20,554 (17,455 undergraduates plus 3,099 graduate and law students), a 7-percent decline compared to the fall 2017 census. Combined with decreases in each of the past seven years, we have seen a 31-percent decline since fall 2011 (when the census figure was 29,832).
This trend has reduced our revenues by millions of dollars and is the principal cause of the structural General Fund budget deficit we face. During the last several years, we have taken meaningful steps to address myriad issues and there are encouraging signs for our future:
- UA’s enrollment models accurately predicted the 2018 results and the same models suggest that the pattern of decline will end in fall 2019. We can be poised to grow again in the near future.
- The trend in recruiting better-prepared students continued this year as our latest incoming class has an average GPA of 3.5 and average ACT of 23. These results will pay off in higher retention and graduation rates.
- Data and other information obtained through the Academic Program Review has allowed us to take steps to position UA to attract more students with more distinctive degrees and more efficient operations.
It is important for us to continually re-evaluate how we present ourselves to prospective students and how we best serve them once they are here. We need to make it easy for prospective students to determine where their interests might fit within our academic offerings structure. In addition, current students who find their original career path unsuitable, should be able to easily identify alternative avenues to a degree. In our current configuration, multiple, related degrees or degree tracks offered in different colleges often make it difficult for students to see their options. Locating related areas of study within the same college could perhaps help reduce those difficulties and enable us to provide better guidance and support to those students.
On September 21st, I will begin some conversations with faculty in several colleges to consider those issues and possible ways we might improve. I want to stress that my ideas and suggestions are just that; your constructive feedback and input are wanted and needed. These initial discussions will be with colleagues in a few disciplines– chemical sciences, engineering and engineering technology, computing and data science and full-time faculty, contract professionals and staff in the College of Applied Science and Technology.
The relevant faculty will receive advance copies of draft proposals for discussion purposes and will be asked to assess pros and cons in terms of addressing important questions facing UA (see full list below; not all questions are relevant to every draft proposal). If there are better ideas for reorganization or more effective ways to address these questions than reorganization, I welcome them and earnestly ask you to share them in those meetings.
Finally, as we announced last week, we are starting the process of developing an inclusive, realistic and actionable strategic plan for the University, including all academic, academic support and auxiliary units.
he process will be managed by the Strategic Planning Steering Committee. Co-chaired by Dr. Aimée deChambeau (dean of University Libraries) and Dr. Chand Midha (executive dean of the Graduate School), other members include: Dr. Linda Saliga(professor of mathematics and chair of Faculty Senate); Dr. Kristine Kraft (associate professor and interim director of the School of Allied Health Technology and faculty senator); Dr. Phil Allen (professor of Psychology and chair of University Council); Stephanie Kiba (assistant director of Academic Advisement, representing the Contract Professional Advisory Committee); Pamela Duncan (administrative assistant, senior, representing the Staff Employee Advisory Committee); andTaylor Bennington (president of Undergraduate Student Government).
The process is scheduled to begin on October 1 and be completed in December 2018. The timetable is necessarily short to allow for the strategic plan to inform the preparation of the 2019/2020 university budget and the search for the next president.
We have many challenges and many good opportunities in front of us, as well as the means to take advantage of them. But a key ingredient is required: the active commitment of every member of the University of Akron family. Working together, we can succeed.