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Friday, December 4, 2020

State budget forecast and the implications for the U and CLA

 Minnesota Management and Budget, the state budget office, released updated state budget projections earlier this week. Their revised projections were favorable. Previously, the office had forecast a state budget deficit for the current year, Fiscal Year 2021. With the revision, the projection is now for a surplus for this fiscal year. This change doesn’t directly affect the University’s current budget, but it does reduce if not eliminate any requirement from the state for agencies and universities to find savings to plug a budget hole. 

The University, as President Gabel recently shared, does have a projected FY21 deficit of $150-175 million, spread across all units and campuses and including areas such as athletics, dining, and housing in addition to the academic enterprise. At next week’s meeting, the Board of Regents will discuss the tools available to address that shortfall. 

Monday, October 26, 2020

Update on Civic Readiness Initiative

A year ago in my State of the College remarks, I announced the Civic Readiness Initiative and described it as building off of our strengths in the liberal arts:

Liberal arts disciplines excel at seeing the world through the eyes of others. In that sense, empathy is a skill and approach that is repeatedly provided to our students. A liberal arts culture is one that understands that if you expect to be heard, you must also be able to listen. This is not about timid and restrictive “civility,” but about the ability to engage in robust and passionate dialogue, discussion, disagreement, and debate.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Final fall 2020 undergraduate enrollment results

As the scope and scale of the pandemic's effects on higher education became apparent during the spring, institutions across the country were concerned about fall enrollment. 

Some of the results reported by the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center have been unsettling. Freshmen enrollment across the country is down 16% nationwide. First-year community college enrollment is down 23%. Total undergraduate enrollment -- which includes new students and continuing students -- across all types of institutions is down 4%. Four-year for-profit colleges showed an increase of undergraduate enrollment by 3% over last fall, but all other institution types were down. 

That's the national picture. CLA also saw the pandemic's impact on our enrollment, but fortunately not at the level seen nationwide. In CLA, we welcomed 2339 freshmen students in fall 2020. That number excludes a larger than usual number of deferrals to spring and fall 2021. Our 2019 fall incoming class of first-year students was 2607, thus we were down in 2020 by a little over 10%.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Workgroup on Curricular Opportunities

(This charge letter was sent to the members of the workgroup on October 15, 2020.) 

Thank you for agreeing to serve on the CLA Workgroup on Curricular Opportunities (WCO). 

The workgroup's charge is to think through curricular and programmatic opportunities for CLA. This list could include:

  • Opportunities that could provide inventive programs (e.g., minors or certificates) that span across departments or colleges that would be attractive for undergraduates in CLA or might be targeted outside CLA.
  • Post-baccalaureate possibilities (e.g., professional certificates around DEI or racial equity or analytics or health given the growing demand and interest in these areas).
  • Maintaining this year’s momentum of summer programming and enrollment. 
  • Making more complete use of our academic calendar through increased use of shorter courses. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

CLA budget facts 1001

Over the past six months, you’ve been hearing frequently from me and from President Gabel about college and University finances, respectively. Those communications have focused on the pandemic’s fiscal impact. 

Recently, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article by Allison Vaillancourt that took a step back from pandemic-influenced finances for a more general examination. The article is titled “What if Everyone on Campus Understood the Money?

Ms. Vaillancourt reports that, “Whenever I give talks on this subject to higher-ed audiences, I often ask them to take a pop quiz about their own institutions. . . . Most faculty and staff members — and a significant percentage of academic and administrative leaders — struggle to provide correct responses to all or even most of those questions.”

Monday, September 28, 2020

DEI summit, actions, and focus areas

On August 26, over 80 CLA staff and faculty members gathered virtually for our first annual Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Summit. The event, originally scheduled for March, was a coming together of departmental DEI committee members and representatives from every department and unit at CLA. The summit aimed to help connect resources and colleagues, discuss what has been successful in departmental DEI work, what challenges departments face in this space, and what the college could do to assist departmental DEI efforts. A similar summit will be held for CLA administrative units in October. 

Thirteen small groups discussed these questions and reported back to the larger group. A document collating the group conversations is now online, and I encourage you to take a look in whichever way and to whatever depth you’d like. There is a lot of lived experience and creative thinking to explore in the document. Let me know what resonates and what strikes you as action steps that CLA should consider. CLA’s leadership team will be reading through all of the group reports to identify some key themes for action.

Friday, September 18, 2020

First glance at fall enrollment numbers and welcoming new faculty

I hope that your transition into the fall semester has gone reasonably smoothly. Many of the issues we’ve wrestled with over the late spring and summer to get ready for the fall have now settled into the routine of the fall semester, if one can label anything “routine” these days. Students moved into the residence halls this week and previously scheduled in-person classes that were moved to online or remote status for the first two weeks of the semester will begin to meet in person on Monday. 

Over the course of the summer, concerns about student enrollment in the fall were elevated around the country given the unusual nature of instruction and the college experience during the pandemic. This concern was true for us in CLA as well. Although we won’t have the official University reporting until after the 10th day of instruction, here’s how things are looking at the moment. Currently, first-year enrollment is at about 2400, which is 150 below the target we were aiming for. (A little history: CLA’s target had been 2450 prior to this year but based on our solid recruiting over the past five years we advocated successfully in summer 2019 to increase the target to 2550 for the incoming fall 2020 class. I don’t recall “but what about the pandemic” being on our agenda for that meeting, alas.) For transfer students, the college is currently at about 1125 new students, which is 125 lower than our target. The college also granted around 130 requests for a delayed start by one semester or one year. Those 130 students are in addition to the 3525 first-year and transfer students mentioned above. I will report on graduate student recruitment and enrollment in a future message.