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September 8, 2012

ISU officials aim for record enrollment

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University has set a new enrollment goal of 14,000 students by 2017.

The new benchmark is part of an update to ISU’s strategic plan. This fall, ISU’s enrollment exceeds 12,000 students, two years ahead of its previously established enrollment goal.

The university hopes to achieve the new target by adding more than 1,000 undergraduates and more than 800 graduate students during the next five years. ISU President Dan Bradley estimates that one-quarter to one-third of the increase would come from distance education students.

 “I think 14,000 is a reasonable target,” Bradley said Thursday.

The growth would not be concentrated at the freshman level, he said. It would be distributed among freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors, and retention will be a key factor.

While the number of seniors went down slightly this fall, he expects that to increase in the future as large freshmen classes from the past few years work their way through the system.

The new enrollment goal would mark the largest student body in ISU’s nearly 150-year history, exceeding a record headcount of 13,533 in 1970.

The enrollment increase is important “because we want to help the state and nation achieve their goals in terms of a college-educated workforce,” Bradley said.

But more students also will enable ISU to become more efficient, which in turn helps it stay affordable in terms of modest tuition increases, he said.

More students means more revenue, but ISU doesn’t intend to increase faculty and staff proportionately to growth in enrollment, Bradley said.

The intent is to increase student numbers in small, upper-level classes to get them to more reasonable levels, he said. He gave the example of increasing an upper-level class with six students to 10 students.

“We’ll work hard to maintain class size at the freshmen level,” he said. “It’s not as if we’re just going to throw the lid off the class size.”

John Beacon, ISU vice president for enrollment management, marketing and communication, hopes to achieve the new enrollment goal through a combination of more distance education students, improved retention and strategically growing the freshmen class.

More distance education, or online students, “is key to this,” Beacon said.

Another goal for ISU as part of its strategic plan is to boost four-year and six-year degree completion rates. ISU wants to increase its four-year graduation rate from 22.2 percent to 30 percent in five years and boost its six-year graduation rate from the current 42 percent to 50 percent. Graduation goals are higher for students transferring from community colleges.

Board action was not required on the revised strategic plan goals, but ISU trustees did act on an initiative aimed at helping increase college affordability and boost graduation rates.

Board members approved a “bracketed” or flat fee schedule for undergraduates that will allow students taking six to nine credit hours of summer classes to pay a fee equivalent to six credit hours.

Currently, summer fees are assessed on an hourly basis.

University officials estimate the change, effective for summer 2013, will save resident undergraduates up to 35 percent on the cost of summer classes.

Officials say it could help reduce college costs by enabling students to graduate in four years or less, which in turn would help ISU’s four-year graduate rate.

Also on Friday, Indiana State trustees:

n Approved a reduction in the minimum number of credit hours required for a bachelor’s degree from 124 to 120 to comply with a new state law. The Commission for Higher Education must approve any program that exceeds 120 hours.

n Authorized the board treasurer to seek state approval for a $3.5 million upgrade of electrical equipment at University Apartments.

n Approved the 2013-15 biennial operating budget submission prepared in accordance with instructions provided by the Indiana Commission for Higher Education and State Budget Agency, but expressed concern about continued declines in state appropriations

n Approved the 2013-15 capital budget request to the state totaling $63.5 million in state funding for the renovation of Normal Hall to house a Center for Student Success; the second phase of renovation to life science and chemistry laboratories; and renovation of the Arena Building for the College of Nursing, Health, and Human Services; and $5.5 million in general repair and rehabilitation funds.

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

 

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