Dear Campus Community,
Each September, campus leadership kicks off the academic year with a day-long on-site retreat. The group consists of the chancellor’s cabinet and the provost’s cabinet, plus leaders from the Academic Senate and Staff Assembly.
This year, we spent the day discussing undergraduate enrollment, because our colleagues in Institutional Research had identified a concerning trend: our students have been taking fewer and fewer credits each quarter. Our current average undergraduate credit load of 14.02 is lower than it has been in a decade, since the nadir of the Great Recession in 2011 (13.89). Note that a normal load – one that will allow a student to graduate in four years – is 15 credits per term.
Why does this matter? It matters because low credit loads mean longer time to degree for our students, which will cost them more money. It also delays their entry into the workforce or graduate school. Empirical research shows that students who take a full course load thrive on academic momentum and do not experience a drop in their GPA, even if they are also working and/or taking care of family members. At the retreat, we discussed the barriers to taking a full course load and strategies to overcome these barriers (and yes, we are all aware of the challenge of our bottleneck courses!). Helping our students to graduate in a timely fashion is a key initiative within the second goal of our draft strategic plan: to improve undergraduate student success.
Increasing our average undergraduate credit load is also imperative to the first goal of our draft strategic plan: to build financial stability. State funding makes up 45% of our core operating budget, and our allocation is based on student full-time equivalents (FTE). Each undergraduate FTE is 45 credits (15 each in fall, winter, and spring). UCOP multiplies our total number of students (headcount) by our average credit load and then divides by 45 to arrive at our total student FTE. With the drop in credit load, we stand to lose almost $6M, which would wipe out half of the increase we received this year. We need to increase FTE to ensure we receive the funding from the state that will allow us to hire staff to fulfill all aspects of our mission, including the high priority areas of research infrastructure and graduate education.
We also discussed new student recruitment, with an eye toward increasing our out-of-state enrollment. Currently domestic nonresidents make up 0.3% of our undergraduate student body (international students comprise 3.1%). We have the opportunity to expand the geographic diversity of our ethnically and racially diverse student body. Exposure to peers from different backgrounds will enhance the student experience at UCR. It will also bring in nonresident tuition, to help support all areas of our mission. At the same time, we plan to step up our outreach efforts to high school and community college students from our local districts, to ensure that we are serving the Inland community.
In considering enrollment growth, we talked about better managing and marketing our majors. We have scholars from an extraordinary breadth of disciplines offering more than 80 BA/BS degree programs. We want to make sure that our students understand the opportunities available to them here at UCR, beyond just the subjects they are familiar with from their high school experiences.
Enrollment growth is our obligation as part of the prestigious University of California system. You may have read about President Drake’s announcement of the system’s ambitious growth plan. In the development of that plan, campuses were asked to complete a template that outlined the dollars necessary to support programs, strategies, and opportunities for traditional and non-traditional enrollment growth. Please see the two-page summary of UCR’s 2030 capacity plan that details (at the bottom of the second page) the $120M in on-going funds and more than $5B in one-time funds we believe we need to expand our capacity. We continue to advocate forcefully with UCOP and the state legislature for investments in our campus’s future.
At this year’s retreat, we also reviewed our progress on the priorities identified at the September 2021 retreat. That meeting was devoted to “earning and spending”: the earning discussions explored ways to increase our net revenues (e.g., nonresident enrollment, summer enrollment, extramural funding), and the spending discussions focused on hiring more staff. Here are the results:
• Nonresident undergraduate enrollment increased 36% from 2021 to 2022.
• Summer session enrollment did not increase from 2021 to 2022 (it actually decreased slightly, 1.4%). However, it was still 23% higher than it was pre-pandemic in 2019.
• Extramural research funding increased 20% from 2021 to 2022.
• Total Facilities and Administrative Costs (F&A), or indirect cost recovery from grants, received by the university increased almost 10% from 2021 to 2022.
• Staff headcount increased 4.5% from 2021 to 2022, and units have current recruitment plans to add another 3.5% this year.
Stabilizing our financial foundation will enable us to support the pillars of our mission as a top-ranked, minority-serving, Research-1 university. Intentional management of our enrollment will be a collective effort across campus, and I thank you in advance for your engagement in this work.
Two other things:
1) News from the Academic Personnel Office
Vice Provost Dan Jeske and his staff in APO have analyzed the data from processing the merit and promotion files of more than 400 Senate faculty during the 2021-22 academic year. See The Year in Review. Additional data analyses can be found on the APO website.
2) Provost Office Hours
My office hours have restarted after the summer hiatus. Please sign up! I look forward to meeting you and hearing your thoughts about UCR.
Best wishes for the new academic year,