Updates from the Provost
- Author: Monday, August 31st, 2020
We have successfully completed the first week of our campus restart and I thought it would be a good opportunity to share a current update.
Enrollment & Retention. As of August 29th our enrollment of first-time first-year Freshmen was 3189, a remarkable increase of 458 students (14.4%) over the same day last year. Despite that significant gain, overall undergraduate enrollment is down slightly (32 students) and graduate enrollment is also down slightly (37 students). International enrollment is down considerably (117 students) to a total of 169 students and transfer student enrollment is down by 70 students. Campus housing occupancy is down by about 150 beds over last year. Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, I think we are doing quite well and are on positive trajectory. Overall retention has increased from 73.0 to 77.1%. Under-represented minority retention has increased from 60.0 to 73.7%. All academic colleges showed increases in retention. Even though there were no academic dismissals last spring, this is still a solid increase in retention. Thank you for your hard work and commitment to our recruitment/yield efforts and to our students who have been successful during very difficult circumstances. This is hard work and it requires everyone’s best efforts.
Budget Update. The Budget Executive Committee met on Tuesday and discussed development of the timeline for beginning the F22 budget development process. This process will begin on September 15 and be completed in May 2021. Budget governance committees will meet throughout the Fall semester to discuss, identify, and evaluate fixed cost obligations, budget requests, and revenue targets.
Due to our current budget deficit, we are still in severe austerity mode and will remain so at least through the first quarter. Because of our diligence across the university, we spent $1 M less in July 2020 than in July 2019. This is important so that we can meet the reduction targets. Fortunately our enrollment looks relatively strong this semester.
CAPE Transformation Update. Deans’ offices and the Provost’s Office have completed review of the Program Transformation Updates submitted by program coordinators in the spring. Of the 55 programs that were reviewed, 47 will move into the curriculum and academic program review process. Three were suspended by the program, 3 were suspended by the dean/provost office, and 2 were delayed. For a complete list, go here. This fall, we will create a committee of representative deans, department heads, and faculty (including representatives of GCC and UCC) to create a new academic review process that will be streamlined, data-driven, and formative to help improve programs, direct resources appropriately, and, if necessary, close programs that are not meeting the needs of current students.
COVID-19 Update. Mask compliance has been good. Please continue to remind all people in buildings of the expectations to socially distance and wear masks. We’ve fielded some questions about study spaces for commuter students and lines at the food court, but there have been no big problems so far. Let us know if there things our office can do to help.
As expected, we had a few positive cases (students 86, faculty/staff 0) last week. No big clusters have been identified yet and so far, no patterns of COVID-19 infections have emerged. We believe that increases in certain fraternity/sorority houses has more to do with close living spaces than inappropriate gatherings. Even so, all students living in any of the sorority/fraternity houses are now required to get tested. We will continue to provide testing to the WKU community through the campus Graves Gilbert clinic. I can assure you that as people test positive, we will react quickly and aggressively to quarantine them and contact trace.
The governor has indicated that the state will launch its own COVID-19 Data Dashboard. The expectation will be that we feed our data to them. In addition, we will maintain our own Dashboard so that we can share our data with our community.
Student Success. As is often the case, I remain concerned about student success especially for our youngest and most vulnerable student population. I truly appreciate the large amount of work that has gone into developing courses that will be delivered in different modalities. Online courses, in particular, require different skills and perspective than face-to-face courses. For students who prefer face-to-face courses but find themselves in online courses, it is most important that we provide opportunities for human engagement. These students need to meet other students in their classes and be given opportunities to engage with them. Zoom study groups, discussion groups, project groups, breakout rooms, etc. can provide the additional contact that can help these students navigate this online world more successfully. I am thrilled to see that many of you are incorporating these techniques into your courses. If you need help creating engagement activities, please check out the CITL webpage or reach out to them for additional ideas about creating communities within the courses that you teach. It can make a huge difference in the student experience.
As much as we are still distracted by the pandemic and as we juggle different teaching demands with our family commitments, I believe that it is most important that we do the work of the university deliberately and with purpose. We can and will make a huge difference in the lives of our students. Thank you for all you do.
Cheryl L. Stevens, PhD
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs