News From Terre Haute, Indiana

June 15, 2013

ISU trustees focusing on retention, grad rates

Sue Loughlin
The Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — Improved student retention and graduation rates are a university-wide responsibility, Indiana State University trustees emphasized during Friday’s meeting.

Trustees praised the overall job being done by ISU president Dan Bradley and said the university had a “banner year” in 2012-13 in making progress toward many of its goals.

They are pleased with new initiatives to improve retention and graduation rates, including the new University College, which focuses on freshmen, and the Sycamore Graduation Guarantee.

At the same time, “We think we have a lot of room for improvement,” said trustee David Campbell, who outlined some of the discussion that took place during an annual review of Bradley on Thursday.

Campbell did so at the request of board president Randy Minas and focused his remarks on the need to improve retention and graduation rates.

ISU’s current freshmen-to-sophomore retention rate is 60.6 percent. The four-year graduation rate is 19.5 percent, and the six-year graduation rate is 42.5 percent.

For the upcoming year, trustees have asked Bradley to provide statistical information by college, and if possible by department, on specific retention and graduation rates.

“We don’t have that information now,” Campbell said. “We’d like to see it. We want to be able to discuss who is succeeding, who isn’t, and why.”

Trustees also want to make retention and graduation “a defined responsibility of department chairs,” Campbell said. “We want department chairs to know they have that responsibility.”

Also, each college and department should have, or develop, a plan to retain and graduate students. “We as a board would like to see what each college and department is doing specifically” to promote both, Campbell said.

Trustees also are considering an  independent survey of students and faculty “to see if the culture of student success is permeating throughout the university community,” and whether there are other things the board should consider or be doing to promote student success, retention and graduation.

Campbell said the intent is not to be critical of anyone. “We are making great steps in this area, but we want to make sure it is a university-wide commitment” and the board  wants to publicly make known its interest in student success, he said.

Under action items, trustees approved a new tuition and fee schedule as well as the 2013-14 operating budget; officials say both reflect the university’s commitment to affordability.

Tuition and fees will rise by less than 2 percent each of the next two years. Full-time, in-state students will pay $4,128 per semester in tuition and fees for 2013-14, an increase of 1.95 percent, or $79, from last year.

“Indiana State University continues to make significant strides in maintaining affordability for students and parents,” Bradley said. “The entire campus has come together to meet the challenge of keeping all cost increases as low as possible while ensuring a quality education and the best possible learning environment.”

Diann McKee, vice president for business affairs and finance, said the tuition increase is needed to continue progress on the university’s strategic plan and to meet unavoidable increases in such areas as health insurance and utilities.      

Trustees approved a $152.3 million operating budget that reflects a 4.3 increase from this year and includes $1.2 million in internal reallocations  to fund salary increases and other priorities.

The budget includes a projected 2 percent increase for salary adjustments, but criteria for any pay raises will be determined only after final fall enrollment numbers are known and will depend on overall budgetary conditions, McKee said.

The budget includes a projected 4.7 percent increase in health insurance, and it sets aside $11.9 million, or 7.8 percent of total operating expenses, for academic and need-based student aid.

It includes $1 million for continued funding of the university’s strategic plan and $3.25 million for repair and rehabilitation of buildings.

Trustees also authorized university administrators to seek state approval to relocate the Sycamore track and field facility to recently acquired university property in the Wabash Riverfront area. The project, included in ISU’s 2009 master plan, would cost no more than $4.3 million and would be funded by interest income, commissions and private donor support.

Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or sue.loughlin@