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2011 Progress Report

June 01, 2011

Dear colleagues,

For those who read horoscopes, 2011 saw a realignment of astrological signs and the characteristics associated with each particular symbol. As an example, a Libra has now transitioned to the sign of Virgo whose characteristics define a different environment for action for those who fall within its boundaries. Similarly, in 2011 Angelo State University faces a similar realignment in three environments which will chart our course over the coming year.

The first environment- and the only one where we have significant control over outcomes- is the internal one. ASU’s key strategic goal is to increase its enrollment to 10,000 students. Funding for Texas public institutions of higher education is based primarily on enrollment growth. For the decade prior to 2008, ASU’s flat enrollment meant that its state funding had dropped from nearly 70 per cent to less than 50 per cent. During this same period, ASU’s student retention and six-year graduation rates had declined to 10-15 per cent below those of peer institutions. Loss of enrollment and funding intensified by a decline in the graduation rate of our students created a complacent environment across campus.

Over the past three years we have taken significant steps to address and reverse these negative trends. We have achieved record enrollments over the past three semesters with the projection that ASU will top 7,000 students this fall. We raised the standards for admission making it more likely that admitted students will be retained and will graduate. This spring we established and professionally staffed student advising centers in each college, ensuring that all students now have access to these vital services. Our initial figures indicate that retention rates have increased dramatically, leading in turn to an increase in our total student enrollment.

ASU has also been more diligent in seeking external funding to support our students and minimize the pressure to raise tuition to offset loss of funding from the state. The Center for Security Studies and our Hispanic Serving Institution status together will account for nearly $20 million over five years in new federal funding. Our Development Office has been active in working with individual and corporate donors resulting in record giving totals over the past two years. We are also reviewing and implementing measures to reallocate existing funds from programs and services which do not support our enrollment target to those which do.

In sharp contrast will be the second environment which ASU will face in 2011, the status of state funding for higher education. We have all seen the projections of 10-20 billion dollars in the shortfall of funding available to the state. Our legislators must now grapple with reductions in allocations to state agencies, including ASU. ASU has already returned $2,685,538 to the state to assist in covering the deficit. We have also been told to plan for future budget cuts, possibly up to 20 per cent. Cuts at that level will impact programs and people on campus. As we maintain the momentum to increase our enrollment, the financial ability to do so will be diminished. This scenario will be even more difficult if the legislature imposes caps on the amount of tuition and fee increases which a university may request from its board of regents.

Finally, we must address the third environment whose parameters are still emerging. Public higher education in the United States is directly tied to our social mobility where each generation seeks a better standard of living than previous ones. This is termed the “value proposition” of higher education and accounts for the willingness of students and parents to borrow to pay for the education that allows them access to the “American dream.” The current recession which has impacted so many with record levels of unemployment, is now also questioning the role of higher education. The prospect of fewer jobs for recent college graduates let alone those with significant experience in the work place, is casting a negative shadow on how higher education proves its societal worth. Distance learning, short-term certificates and “no frills” options will challenge traditional models of residential “bricks and mortar” institutions which includes Angelo State University.

Angelo State University is both an intellectual and economic engine for our community and region. At the same time, our ability to succeed is dependent on actions and environments largely outside of our control. As we navigate through the challenges of 2011, we will keep uppermost in our mind our mission as your public institution of higher education keenly recognizing that the vitality of ASU is a critical component to the long-term economic health of San Angelo and its surrounding communities.

Sincerely,

Joseph C. Rallo
President