An Update from The University of Akron
Interim President Matthew J. Wilson
With Homecoming at The University of Akron this week (Saturday, Oct. 8), I thought that it would be an ideal time to provide you with a brief update of the first three months of my interim presidency. (Naturally, we hope that you can join us for Homecoming. Click here for details.) Also, I wanted to respond to the question that I hear the most from our alumni base and supporters – “Please let me know what I can do to help UA.”
Outreach and Excitement
First, our progress is very encouraging. On campus, there is a definite air of optimism and renewed spirit. The greater community continues to generally express its enthusiastic support for UA. Media coverage has predominantly focused on the accomplishments of our students, faculty, and alumni. We are even attracting more community members to our on-campus events – though we would naturally love to see more (additional information is in the bullet points below).
Every week, I make it a point to connect with students, faculty, and staff as well as our supporters, alumni, members of industry, and government officials at the local and state levels. At the same time, every week I pack boxes of Zippy cookies into my car and present them to local high school principals and guidance counselors when I visit their schools to discuss how UA can better assist our high schools and their students. At my present pace, I will visit more than 50 high schools this semester alone. This semester and next, I will also be addressing high school students across the region. Most recently, I spoke to freshmen and sophomores at Firestone High School, and will be addressing the entire student body at St. Vincent-St. Mary High School next week.
Fortunately, faculty members have joined me in visiting high schools and sharing their specific expertise in the schools’ classrooms. Our admissions and financial counselors are actively visiting schools to explain college preparation, financial aid opportunities, the enrollment process, and related topics to students and parents. Fall semester has been very exciting.
Our fall enrollment is 8% less than in Fall 2015. Although this presents a substantial financial challenge for us, we were able to reverse an even steeper decline due to a heroic effort by our Admissions team and others. In fact, in the two months prior to Sept. 13, we had a 4.3% uptick in overall enrollment. Two principal factors combined for much of the decline: One of our largest classes in recent years graduated in 2015-16, and new freshman enrollment fell sharply this fall to 3,442. There are several noteworthy aspects to that new freshmen enrollment:
- The average GPA was 3.44, the highest average GPA in UA’s history for this cohort, and the classes’ average ACT score of 23.3 remains the same as fall 2015 cohort.
- The percentage of minority students in the entering freshman class increased to 25.1% from 23.1% last year, and the percentage of out-of-state entering freshman students increased to 9.3%, from 5.7% in comparison with two years ago.
As we look to rebound from the enrollment decrease, we will be focusing substantial energy on retention and recruitment of students. All seem willing to contribute to improving student success. We will also need to tighten our belt and move forward in a fiscally prudent manner both internally and externally. I continue to hold town hall meetings with our colleges and departments to discuss our situation and invite input.
How Can I Help?
Understanding the rich heritage of the University together with the immediate challenges before us, alumni and friends of the University constantly ask, “How can we help?” There are many ways you can contribute, and you might be surprised by their simplicity and ease. We invite you to join us in one or more of the following:
- Learn more about us. The more positive news you can spread the stronger we will become. Bookmark our homepage on your computer as a fast and easy way to keep up with the latest news and stories about Akron students, faculty, programs, and sports. The more you learn about your alma mater, the prouder you will be.
- Attend events on campus. Entertainment dollars spent on campus benefit our students and the University. Check out this University Calendar for easy, fast reference to events coming up on campus. If you’re a sports fan, visit the athletics page where you can keep up with every one of our Division IA teams. If you’re looking for a Broadway musical, classical concert, or other entertainment, keep the E.J. Thomas Hall link handy. here is so much to see and do on our campus.
- Show your Akron pride. Help the community remember the benefits of UA by joining us for Blue & Gold Fridays. We have designated every Friday during the academic year for staff, contract professionals, faculty, and students to wear Zips gear and Akron blue & gold to celebrate all aspects of our University. It could be as simple as placing a gold kangaroo pin on your lapel. If you own a business or store, set the example and then invite your employees to show their Akron colors. If you need Zips gear, visit the Team Shop or stop by campus and browse through the bookstores in the Student Union and the Polsky Building.
- Promote UA to prospective students. Nothing matches word-of-mouth communication for persuasive power. Recommend UA to family and friends with high school students, or colleagues and coworkers who are thinking of upgrading their skills. Direct them to our homepage or Admissions site for more information. If you’re coming to campus for a game or show, bring them along! Let them seem UA for themselves.
- Link with our Career Center. Internships, co-operative education, and other forms of experiential learning are immensely beneficial to participating companies and organizations, as well as to students. Visit the Career Services link to learn more about these programs.
- Scholarship support. If your budget permits, please contribute to our Making a Difference Moving Forward scholarship campaign. The most effective way for you to help students succeed is by giving to our scholarship fund. Your contribution can literally make the difference between a student dropping out or continuing on to graduation.
- Encourage your elected officials to find every way possible to support UA as we look to bounce back from a period of turbulence. More than ever, we need governmental leaders to work with the University, support our mission, and assist us on all fronts. We all benefit when UA is strong and vibrant.
I want to repeat that I am very encouraged and optimistic about our future. The revitalized spirit shown throughout the campus and community is deeply inspiring. I am more convinced than ever that this extended University of Akron family can accomplish any task it unites behind.
Thank you for your continuing support.
Matthew J. Wilson