EDWARDSVILLE — Southern Illinois University Edwardsville needs to build a new strategy for the coming years, with an emphasis on enrollment management, budget constraints, increased globalization and improving student retention and graduation rates, according to Chancellor Julie Furst-Bowe.
The chancellor gave her first annual address to update the faculty, staff and students on the state of the university Tuesday. Furst-Bowe officially took office in July, succeeding retired Chancellor Vaughn Vandegrift.
Furst-Bowe reported that SIUE enrolled a record number of freshmen again this year, with 2,075 first-time freshmen in the fall semester. They have a record high average ACT score of 22.8, and one-third enrolled with an interest in pre-professional health programs like medicine, dentistry and nursing.
Approximately 17,060 people applied to SIUE this fall, including 10,600 freshmen, which is a 3 percent increase, she said. About 550 students received merit- and need-based scholarships, with an average ACT of 27, and about 70 percent of SIUE students receive some form of financial aid. It was also the fifth consecutive year of increased diversity among the SIUE student body, she said.
However, the statistics aren't always rosy for SIUE students. Furst-Bowe said only 73 percent of freshmen make it to their sophomore year and about half actually graduate within six years. "An unacceptably high number of students leave us without a degree and with significant student debt," Furst-Bowe said.
If they graduate, things look better: about 90 percent of SIUE grads secure a job within six months after graduation. Furst-Bowe said the retention and graduation rates at SIUE are about average for U.S. colleges, but she believes they can do better.
"We need everyone to focus on increasing our student retention and graduation rates by enhancing what we do for our students in and out of the classroom: teaching, mentoring, encouraging, guiding and directing students to the many support services offered on campus," she said.
Furst-Bowe said the "most over-arching concern" for the university is the budget.
SIU President Glenn Poshard said state cuts have been about $45 million a year for the SIU system, and that's just the amount the state promises to pay; of that, the state currently owes $92 million in unpaid funds to the system.
In order to cope with the state cuts and delays, SIUE has continued a hiring freeze, travel restrictions and increased use of remote technology. In the meantime, the university -- like many others -- must rely more on tuition and fees for its operating expenses.
She said while the freshman enrollment was up, SIUE's total enrollment dropped slightly, which she attributes to financial pressures caused by the economy and increased tuition.
Other focuses for the coming year will include a review of SIUE's strategic plan and enrollment management; increased globalization through foreign study and the new collaboration with the University of Havana in Cuba; and continued green efforts for sustainability and environmental initiatives.
Furst-Bowe also reported that SIUE received 207 grant awards with a total $43 million this year.
Contact reporter Elizabeth Donald at email@example.com or 239-2501.