As I note in my letter to the community for the Progress Edition 2010 of the Standard Times, “For Angelo State University, 2010 will be a pivotal year.” In that article I discuss four actions now under way to achieve student enrollment growth which is essential to attain long-term financial stability for our institution. The economic challenges which have caused turmoil to institutions across the country are now beginning to be felt in Texas. On January 15, the political leadership for Texas issued a letter to all state agencies, including Angelo State, to: “submit a plan to identify savings in priority increments totaling 5 percent of appropriations for the 2010-11 biennium.”
At this time we are uncertain about how or if this reduction will be implemented statewide. We have prepared a savings plan designed to minimize the impact on our students while also ensuring that our enrollment growth strategies continue to be implemented. But, we must continue to focus on the institutional imperative to generate additional revenue, rather than be caught up solely in a dialogue on cost-cutting measures.
So, what are we doing to manage our future? First, the provost and vice president for academic affairs has directed each dean to design and staff an academic advising center for students in each college. Over the years faculty and departments have provided an extraordinary level of advising to their students. But as I note in the Progress Edition, “institutional coordination has been lacking.” As importantly, critical segments of our students, notably those on academic probation, have not been included in university advising plans. Now each of our students will have multiple options for being advised with the clear intent that all students are included in this important process.
Second, our office relocations to the university annex are nearly complete. The principal reason for these moves is to make it easier for students to access critical university functions, for example Registrar and Admissions, while also expanding offices designed to ensure student success and retention. Thus, the “mini-multicultural center,” which is closely tied to our emerging status as an Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI), has moved into the much larger and more visible office spaces previously occupied by Career Development.
Third, we must continue to seek new sources of revenue. State funding, based on enrollment numbers and tuition and fees paid by students, accounts for most of our budget. Dramatically raising tuition and fees to offset our decade-long enrollment decline is simply not a long-term option for ASU. Maintaining our commitment to access and affordability for our students requires innovative strategies to increase revenue beyond the sources we have historically relied on.
As I noted in my January 29, letter to our faculty, ASU’s new Center for Security Studies is one such program. Supported by a federal appropriation for a “Defense Critical Languages and Cultures Initiative,” the Center for Security Studies will create new programs for ASU students, personnel at Goodfellow AFB, as well as for Air Force service members worldwide via distance education. These new students will all count toward our enrollment growth goals. As importantly, the annual funding for the Center will be approximately twice the total revenue we expect to generate for new academic initiatives through the recently introduced $10 per student credit hour instructional enhancement fee.
Another initiative is the proposed mixed-use project on university land adjacent to Knickerbocker Road. This project proposes a mixed residential and retail mall on 17 acres of unused university property. In addition to residential housing for graduate and married students, the project would also provide a signature entry and mall for the campus, an attribute of vital importance to recruiting and retaining students. Of greater interest, ASU would receive significant monthly payments from the developer to be used to support our university strategic priorities. Over the past eight months we have worked with key groups, especially our Texas Tech University System (TTUS) Board of Regents, to gain their support to move forward on this initiative. At their February meeting, we expect TTUS Regents to approve ASU working with the developer in the coming months on the next stages in this project.
Let me close by reiterating that in spite of financial challenges, we will persevere because of our people. After all, people are what make a university great. So, it is quite fitting that one of our colleagues, Ellen D. Moreland, senior instructor of mathematics, was named by the Carnegie Foundation as the 2009 Texas Professor of the Year. Professor Moreland and the rest of our faculty and staff are the reasons why we will weather any upcoming uncertainties as we move ASU toward its strategic and institutional goals in the coming months.
Joseph C. Rallo