Since the Texas Legislature’s 2009 regular session is over, we can begin to develop our planning goals and guidelines for the next two years. Despite an intense amount of discussion within both the Texas House and Senate, no bill emerged to limit tuition and fee increases by a public university. Consequently, our tuition and fee request to the Texas Tech University System Board of Regents sought a 13.4 increase which is necessary to maintain operations and to support our key strategic initiatives. The board approved that request during a special teleconference meeting June 29. Mindful of the economic burden on our students, we are realigning our financial aid system to maximize federal and state funding opportunities, as well as those available from private sources. Our strength is the amount of ‘gift aid’ we have to offer. Unlike most sources of student financial assistance, gift aid does not have to be repaid. As a result, two thirds of our current students pay out-of-pocket expenses of only one third the total cost of an ASU education. Additionally, they graduate with a debt burden which is 31 percent less than the statewide average.
At the same time, our state funding has declined significantly over the past seven years because our enrollment has remained stagnant. We must use the funds generated by an increase in tuition and fees to attract new students to campus and to retain those we have already enrolled. In February, a study we commissioned by the well respected firm of Scannell and Kurz provided us with important information. Key to their findings was that our emphasis on “affordability” had not proven to be a successful strategy to increase our enrollment. The consultants recommended instead that we develop distinctive academic programs, allocate our significant financial and gift aid to more students and develop new recruitment strategies for the population centers of the state.
Repositioning the marketing message of Angelo State University, especially in those large population centers, will be a challenge. In June, I hosted luncheons in Austin and San Antonio for more than 100 high school guidance counselors. While they were enthusiastic about our new message, it was clear that their image and knowledge of Angelo State University was outdated and, in many cases, incorrect. We simply don’t know what image of Angelo State University is held by prospective students and their parents. At its October meeting, we will ask the TTUS Board of Regents to approve a marketing study to help us develop strategies for increased ASU name recognition in the major population centers of Texas.
We cannot relax and wait for the results of these efforts to bear fruit. Under the direction of Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic and Student Affairs Dr. Jim Limbaugh, we will have a new academic master plan defined by August. Resource (re)allocations will be directed toward the academic initiatives which emerge from these deliberations. While Sen. Robert Duncan and Rep. Drew Darby were able to secure $2 million in new funding to increase the size of our nursing and allied health programs, we must (re)allocate funds to strengthen existing and new programs that can lead to enrollment growth and student retention.
We will also initiate national searches for two critical leadership positions. First is the search for a permanent provost and academic affairs vice president, which is being filled on an interim basis for the next year by Dr. Limbaugh. Second is the newly approved position of vice president for student affairs and enrollment management. The search committees for both positions are being formed and will have representatives from all groups on campus as well as from the community. We expect that both positions will be filled by July 2010.
This is an exciting time for Angelo State University. It is also a time which will bring significant transformations to all aspects of our campus. While understanding that transformation is sometimes unsettling, I pledge that it will be implemented in a transparent and inclusive fashion designed to secure the future of ASU for its students, faculty, staff and community. Your role and participation remain critical to ensure our success. Thank you for all that you do on behalf of our exceptional university.
Joseph C. Rallo