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September 26, 2013

Bradley: ISU must keep growing, improving

University president gives annual fall address

TERRE HAUTE — Indiana State University must continue to increase enrollments and improve four-year graduation rates to stay financially healthy and continue on its path of success.

That was a key point of President Dan Bradley Wednesday during his annual fall address in Tilson Auditorium.

In addition, the university needs to increase productivity — which means higher student-to-faculty and student-to-staff ratios — to keep costs down so that college remains affordable, he said.

ISU’s overall four-year graduation rate this year is 21.3 percent. The goal for next year is 25 percent, and by 2017, it is 30 percent.

ISU’s six-year graduation rate is currently 41.8 percent, and the goal for next year is  46 percent.

“Where we are really struggling is in our four-year graduation rate,” Bradley told the audience. “That is critically important.

“By graduating on time, our students save a lot of money, their parents save a lot of money, the federal government saves a lot of money — and it’s something we’re being told is important if we want to get money from the state of Indiana.”

Twenty-five percent of dollars the state has for growth in university budgets this biennium is based on growth in four-year graduation rates, he said.

If ISU is going to increase its funding levels from the state, it has to increase the number of degrees earned in four years, he said.

He outlined various efforts to improve student success, including the new University College and its work with freshmen, including “intrusive” advising. “If you are a freshmen this year, there is no place to hide,” he said.

Also new this year is a pilot program in which 1,000 freshmen are receiving academic coaching, an initiative that involves an outside company. It’s done through phone contact about every other week, or more if necessary.

Bradley also talked about the importance of increasing productivity, another state priority.

The current student-to-faculty ratio is 18.9 students to one faculty, and the goal by 2017 is a ratio of 21.3 students to one faculty member.

The student-to-staff ratio in 2012 was 10.4 students to one staff employee, and in 2017, the goal is 12.5 students to one staff member.

“How can we make sure our employees have the tools to do more, not work harder, but work differently so the cost of higher education does not continue to escalate?” Bradley said in an interview after his address. One way will be through greater use of technology.

Also in his address, he pointed to scenarios showing the importance of about 2-percent enrollment growth each year for the next five years for ISU to maintain its “economic health,” particularly if state appropriations stay flat.

The worst case scenario would be if state funding and enrollments decline, and he chose not to project the estimated  levels of cuts that would be needed. “We have to work hard to make sure both of those things don’t happen,” he said.

Bradley said he’s confident that won’t happen, with all the efforts under way on campus to increase enrollment and improve student success rates. “I know we can do it,” he said.

Bradley also spent a lot of time talking about the university’s successes this past year, including fall enrollment of 12,448 students, the largest enrollment since 1972.

He also talked about the university’s No. 1 nationwide ranking for community service in the 2013 Washington Monthly College Guide.

He also talked about upcoming facility projects. Mills Residence Hall will be renovated in 2014-15; Normal Hall renovations for a new Student Success Center will get under way next summer; a groundbreaking for a new track on the riverfront is planned for spring; and the new Reeve Hall residence hall will open next summer. When it opens, it will house eight ISU sororities.

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

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