Although the fall semester is just beginning, some very positive outcomes of our integrated strategic planning process are now emerging. Our primary strategic initiative remains enrollment growth through a combination of increased academic expectations, proactive recruitment strategies and a heightened emphasis on retention for all students. The results this fall were indeed impressive, including an overall increase of 469 students from fall 2009 for the largest enrollment ever recorded at Angelo State University. Our graduate student population increased by more than 30 percent, while we also recorded significant gains in the rate of undergraduate students returning for their sophomore and junior years.
Another critical initiative was to seek Federal funding after we attained the 25 percent Hispanic enrollment necessary last fall to seek Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) status and the accompanying federal support. Our grant proposal focused on the need to craft retention strategies for all of our undergraduate students, since ASU data indicates that our historic rates have been 10-15 percent below our peer institutions. At the end of September, we were awarded a five-year $3.15 million HSI grant from the U.S. Department of Education to bring our retention strategies to fruition.
We also continue to seek external funding to counter the 5 percent “give back” required by the state while minimizing the need to dramatically increase tuition and fees for our students. Toward that end, the Texas Tech University System Capital Campaign was announced in September, with ASU’s goal of $25 million being set within the total system goal of $1 billion dollars. Shortly thereafter, we announced the receipt of our third endowed chair at the $1 million level, funded by the James A. “Buddy” Davidson Charitable Foundation of Midland for the Department of Agriculture.
Naturally, the fall will also usher in some new challenges, particularly since the Texas Legislature will convene its 2011 session in January. As I mentioned in my “State of the University” address last month, Gov. Rick Perry has established a committee to recommend “efficiencies” for higher education. The Governor noted that state funding will not be sufficient to continue “business as usual.” ASU, along with all other public universities in Texas, has already seen a 5 percent reduction in its state funding with the possibility that more cuts may be mandated by the legislature.
So, in closing let me applaud your continued willingness to create programs that will lead to the success of our students in an environment characterized by both change and uncertainty. Only by embracing a shared vision of success will ASU be able to weather current and future challenges to emerge as a stronger and more vibrant institution meeting the needs of West Texas, the state and nation.
Joseph C. Rallo