STATE OF THE UNIVERSITY ADDRESS 10/22/19 AUDITORIUM
I do want to say good afternoon to everyone. I am happy to deliver my second State of the University Address and it is my honor to serve here at Northeastern, to serve the faculty, the staff and the students and the alumni that are here. I do extend my welcome to those who are live-streaming and who could not be here today. This afternoon, as Vicki said, I will focus on our achievements, our ongoing challenges, priorities and future directions as they were outlined in the Transition Committee report. I'll leave time and I look forward to whatever questions you have. I am joined on the stage by my cabinet, who I may in fact ask to help me as I address your questions. I want to start with just a few items that pertain to our recent campus achievements. First and foremost, I do want to acknowledge our new provost, Dr. Dennis Rome.
I also want to acknowledge the numerous awards, grants, honors that have been received by our faculty and our staff. Let's acknowledge all of that good work.
Thank you for the great work that you do each and every day. I want to highlight just a few other achievements that we are all proud of. We are as a university ranked number one in a number of areas. As you know, we are ranked number one for the lowest student debt; NEIU graduates its students with the least amount of debt in the Midwest among regional universities. We are ranked number one for social mobility among Illinois Public Universities, which demonstrates movement up the socioeconomic ladder. This is great for our students. We, of course, are ranked number one in Illinois for being one of the most secure campuses. We are ranked number one by Washington Monthly Magazine as one of the nation's best colleges for adult learners, and we are ranked number two for the nation's most diverse managerial staff. The Chronicle of Higher Education ranked Northeastern second in the nation among four-year public institutions for diversity among managers. So again, this is not one person, this is all of us working together to achieve these rankings.
The two primary goals that I stated during my inaugural address and my first State of the Union Address, those goals have not changed. They are access and opportunity, and student success. These goals, along with inclusion and equity, remain the most important. The question remains: how do we reach potential students whether they are first-generation students, students of color, adult learners, transfer students, veterans, students who have different ability levels and how do we reach them and bring them to El Centro, Carruthers and this campus location? Enrolling students is just the beginning. As an HSI, we want to work and provide the support to ensure success of our Latino students, our African-American students, our immigrant students, first-generation, all students who enter our portals. We must continuously ask: do we have the academic and student services in place to provide an excellent educational support that is necessary?
After a little over a year serving as president, we have made some strides but we have so much more work to do. As we all know, we need more resources. While we are appreciative of our five percent increase last year, remember that five percent increase was on about a little over a third of our overall budget. As you can see by this slide, we have not returned to our 2015 funding level. There is some optimism because we did receive an increase last year and because Governor Pritzker and the State Legislature are supportive of higher education. However, as the legislative session starts early next year, there are no early indicators at this time about how state university allocations might look. So we hope that arrow continues to go upward.
This next slide shows where funding comes from and our expenditures, 60 percent tuition and about 40 percent state appropriation and almost 80 percent of our total operating budget is dedicated to personnel costs. So this is just a quick way of looking at how the money comes in and how the money goes out.
At NEIU, about half our students are full-time and half are part-time. When we examine IPEDS data, it is the first time, full-time students who serve as the primary data point. From 2015, we saw an increase in students and then last year, 2018, a steep decline. This fall we are flat. It is these students who are tracked for our four-year and six-year graduation rates. There at the end you see that for next year we have a goal of increasing our enrollments at least five percent. We're hoping better but at least five percent.
So moving forward, how do we work together to increase our enrollments? Well, there are a number of things that have already been put in place and other things that we plan to do. First and foremost, we have to have the technology. Most universities have very advanced technology systems that automatically alert students as to when to do what, to welcome them, so we have started to purchase some of that technology last year and we're continuing it this year. We need to increase our application pool, expedite processing and increase yield. All three of those are very important. While we are processing applications, other universities are doing it at a much faster rate. So we need to be on the cutting edge of expediting that process and that will increase yield. Our yield, and when I say yield, I mean how many applications we received and how many students ended up coming to our university. So that percentage did increase this year but again we're not where we need to be.
We need to develop an aggressive recruitment calendar, notifying students of their acceptance but also about their financial package, and I know there are a lot of you that have college-age students and when they get their letter of acceptance, everyone is very, very happy, but the next question is: how much money did I get? And so we need to be able to package that and say, yes you are accepted and here are your scholarships and the awards that you have received.
We need to increase our international students. Increasing international students will increase the diversity of our campus but it will also help us with The Nest and we know that our occupancy rates in The Nest have been down and if we don't reach those designated occupancy rates, we have to pay and it is no secret, it was in the board report what we paid last year, two million dollars right? Two million dollars and we are at 40 percent occupancy this fall, which means we will have to pay. So getting students in that beautiful, beautiful complex, but international students is one way that we can increase that occupancy.
We must continue to fund strategic marketing campaigns. We have a campaign going this fall. We will have one in the spring. We have to be aggressive. Other institutions are very aggressive and not just institutions in Illinois, you see billboards from other states. You know people are coming in and recruiting from Chicago specifically because it is a diverse area.
We need to increase our overall outreach to diverse communities here in Chicago. I have visited many communities. I've tried to make myself known to many of those communities but there's still a lot of outreach work that we all are doing and need to do. We need to develop more innovative pipelines to NEIU and to that, we are very proud of that our recent is our MoU with ASPIRA graduates to come here to NEIU, and a pilot program at Roberto Clemente High School where two of our faculty members will be on site at Roberto Clemente teaching high school students, and our goal is to recruit those students from Roberto Clemente here to NEIU.
And we still need to come up with ways where we can strategically involve NEIU faculty and staff, and I thank all of the faculty and staff who have been active participants, and especially Faculty Senate for leading that initiative last year, and of course one of the best ways to increase enrollments is to in fact keep and retain the students that we have.
So let's look at retention. As you can see, our retention rates are climbing. Each and every one of you, each one of us plays a very important and strategic role in the success of our students. In fact, branding and marketing— the study that we had done last year, many of you participated, that study characterized the University as compassionate and hardworking. In other words, our faculty and staff care about our students and we work hard for their success, and whenever I'm out and I meet alums, they always tell me their NEIU story and it is a story of compassion and a story of hard work. So we must all continue to enhance the efforts of helping students thrive in college from admission to commencement and also to help them with career readiness as they go through and matriculate through the University.
We need to increase the number of internships that we provide for students. We need more research with faculty and students, whether undergraduate or graduate, and we need to develop culturally relevant pedagogy to enhance success. Active engagement with these practices will help our students succeed at a greater level. Our retention rates for African American students need to drastically improve. Before 2018, only one in four progressed from year one to year two. There are several reasons for this and I, you know, I can't give you all the reasons right now, but the one reason that I want you to understand is that the students can do the work. They can do the work. We're giving them an opportunity and they can do the work. Last year, I found out that many African American students had acceptable GPAs. We had a panel of African American students. They had acceptable GPAs but for whatever reasons, and you know, we don't have time to go into those, they did not have a 67 percent federal financial aid completion rate. So that impacted their progress to degree.
Other students on this very stage talked about the environment here at NEIU and how challenging that environment is. This year, as the chart indicates, because of several initiatives and the efforts of many of you, the rate increased to 49 percent. Again not where it needs to be but certainly better than what it was. For our Latino students, retention increased to almost 60 percent. While these accomplishments should be celebrated, we have a lot more work to do with our students. One other area where student progress is needed is really between year two and year three. Year one, we have a lot of services provided for students. Year two, some of those services fall off. So we need external funding to help us with implementing a second-year experience for our students. Our upper division students with declared majors in college have very strong retention rates. In the College of Arts and Sciences, 83 percent of students are retained year over year. In the Goodwin College of Education, the retention rate is 88 percent and in the College of Business and Management, the retention rate is 92 percent. Those are excellent retention rates. So it is year one, year two, making sure that we have wraparound services for our students, so that once they get in their majors, they are very, very successful.
We also know that it's not just the academic side of the house, it's also Student Affairs that plays an instrumental role with student success. One recent initiative started by Student Affairs is NEIU Cares, a student interaction survey. The survey measures student satisfaction of services. The survey is found on kiosks at participating offices, takes less than 30 seconds to complete and provides valuable information about interactions with students and helps the division to improve the student experience. So we probably could use more of these, after students leave they just push a button and rate the experience.
We are also looking at student experience through our climate study. This is the first-ever campus-wide climate study and it is underway with many of you participating and with the assistance of Rankin and Associates Consulting. This is the website and I encourage you to visit and please participate in this year-long initiative. It's very important that everyone's voice is heard as we progress through this year. For my part relating to campus climate, I plan to engage in better campus-wide communication, more transparency and greater input related to many things across campus and especially as we look forward to our spring Goodwin lecture, and many of those efforts have already started.
I want to conclude my remarks with a brief discussion of the Transition Committee report. First, I have to thank everyone once again who participated last year. There were over 80 people and there were more than that, that actually signed up and I also had a small group of faculty and staff that helped me this summer with a massive amount of material and data that was collected. I want you to know that the Transition Committee report contains brilliant ideas, brilliant ideas. Some short-term, some long-term. I will also want you to know that none of those ideas will be discarded, not one. They are all important. They are all important because they came from you. They came from the campus. They emerged from the discussions and the meetings that you had. So what I want to present to you, of course you know there were short-term and long-term, there were all of these committees and there are many, many ideas, and so what I want to present to you this afternoon is just a few that I will be discussing over the next few months that we might consider as a campus. Now some of these we've already started and it's a matter of additional planning, sometimes it will be a matter of budget, staff, structure, but I think that, you know, these are ideas that emerged and are ready for us to have future discussions. The first one is to institute, and in some cases improve, culturally relevant pedagogy. This was a topic at our Faculty Institute. I know that there are faculty who have a focus, a very important focus on culturally relevant pedagogy and so this is something that is very, very important to our campus. We need to implement a new customer relations management system. If you hear someone saying CRM, CRM that's what it is, Customer Relations Management. What does it do? It reduces time needed to make application decisions and course enrollments. So it speeds up that— I'm simplifying, oversimplifying, but it speeds up that process for getting students into the University.
Sort of related to campus climate, we need to assess perspectives and the needs for our specific student populations. It's understanding the identities and the cultural backgrounds, the geographic backgrounds of our students. We need to do more of that. We need to develop an infrastructure and marketing to attract pre-college high school students to take summer classes here at NEIU and to actually get a jump start on college. We need to perform an environmental scan of current online and hybrid courses toward a strategic development of high-quality courses and programs for NEIU. So we should have at least one, at least one program online where students never have to set foot on campus but they can enroll in that program.
We need to strengthen our connections between Career Development and Alumni Relations to leverage resources and foster career pathways. This suggestion was very specific. It said establish a UAC committee, subcommittee to collect student, staff and faculty satisfaction data. Support our recruiters by providing professional development and customer service skills and training sessions. Professional development is important for all of us. Improve our ability to tell personal stories through traditional and social media, and this is what I was saying earlier, alums want to tell their story, our students want to tell their stories, they are all very important. Develop eight-week courses beginning mid-semester, targeting students who drop general education or developmental courses. It gives students an opportunity, if something happens during the first eight weeks, to take a course the second eight weeks.
Review, make consistent and have a system for regular updates of campus signage, online directory and web links, and this particular subcommittee wanted us to work toward digital messaging on Foster and Bryn Mawr. So those marquees, they want marquees there to again bring in people to the University. Create a self designated interdisciplinary major whereby the student proposes a program of study with faculty advisors and the degree culminates in an interdisciplinary capstone project. Pilot a banded tuition program that allows 12 to 16 credit hours for the price of 12 and implement your last semesters on us, —I think there's a typo, there maybe—your last semester is on us, free tuition incentive for full-time students and again, this is something that a task force is currently working on.
The last recommendation from the Transition Committee that I really want to bring to your attention because I think it's very, very important, and that is to create a student and family-oriented one-stop-shop, a Student Success Center that supports incoming freshmen and transfer students in their, in their transition to NEIU, and all students through their matriculation. So this center that is pictured here is actually at Kennedy King Community College where a student can go in one place for the registrar, for academic support services, for advising, financial aid, bursar, they're not sent from place to place, to place to place, and again, it may seem like a very simple concept but it is one that promotes student success.
So the last slide here, I'm sort of dreaming about the future as well with other initiatives, and I think it is important for all of us to think about and to investigate new majors, new majors that are in alignment with current and future workforce needs. Again this is going to help us with student employment, student careers. It is a message to the governor and to our legislature that we understand what those workforce needs are and that we are responsive to the needs of our state.
If you think about the successes that we have had with our students, there are also students who came to NEIU and never finished. They never finished their degree. So I would like to bring back near-completers to campus to finish their degrees either here on campus or via online and develop a plan working with the Foundation to help students pay. Do you realize that some of our students, the amount of money that they owe is under $5,000. It may be $2,000, it may be $3,000 but they stopped out, they don't complete and sometimes they don't come back. That's a loss. So let's develop a plan whereby we can get our near-completers back to campus, find some money to support them, so that they can complete their degree and of course the next option, the next item on the slide is that we start our next capital campaign.
We need to start thinking about that, getting ideas together, about what will be the focus. I'm sure, I mean I have ideas, I'm sure you have ideas about how we can begin that next capital campaign for our students and for their success. We are in the process of hiring a VP for Finance and Administration. Some of you are probably on that search committee and I thank you for your service but I am looking for that new VP to bring in ideas about how we can improve our financial situation here at the University. So when you hear about the candidates coming to campus probably in early December, please go to those presentations, ask the hard questions because we want someone to come in who is going to help us navigate the financial challenges that we have.
And I put the last one here for fun. I want to, the word is investigate, investigate, re-establishing athletics, investigate. Division three, NAIA, but why can't we have a soccer team, why can't we have a basketball team, men and women's? I think we can. I think it would help our school spirit. I think it would contribute again to student success. So that one at—that last one is just kind of for me to throw out to you. So in conclusion, we are all doing great work here at NEIU. We have one of the best universities in the State of Illinois because we do transform the lives of students and we challenge them not only to dream but to achieve their dreams. Thank you very much.