Driscoll Outlines IUP’s New Reality, Invites Solutions at 50 Minutes Event

Posted on 11/11/2019 4:14:14 PM

At his first 50 Minutes with President Driscoll event of the academic year, President Michael Driscoll provided a brief overview of IUP’s current enrollment and budgetary situations, dubbing them IUP’s “new reality,” and challenged members of the IUP community to work together to create ways to differentiate IUP from its competition while creating the best experience for students. The event took place on Wednesday, November 4, 2019, in the Blue Room in Sutton Hall.

Driscoll noted that he and his cabinet members are considering options for organizing and executing ideas and initiatives and welcome input from the entire university community. If you would like to register your interest in working collaboratively to solve problems and create new programming, please send a message to marcom-inquiry@iup.edu.

Driscoll’s speaking points can be found below.

Good afternoon. Thanks for taking time out of your schedule to be here to talk about the issues that face us now. We are in this together, and we need to work together.

We have a great deal of positive momentum on our side. That includes a modest uptick on our retention rate—two percentage points—and that includes a new freshman class with an average high school GPA of 3.3. We have given them a great option to enroll as explorers. At this moment, our exploratory programs are unique in our market place.

We have prioritized a commitment to academic quality and enrolling a student body that is diverse, including serving our nation’s veteran and military-affiliated students. We also will continue to offer educational opportunities at all levels that meet critical workforce needs.

But, total enrollment is 10,636. This includes 10,348 students in degree-seeking programs and 288 students enrolled in career preparation programs. Like many public and private universities in Pennsylvania, our enrollment is less than it was in 2018.

We expected a decline, especially in light of the decreasing number of high school graduates in our region, but the actual decline was larger than predicted.

While the Board of Governors tuition freeze was a welcome gift to students, one that I applauded, it added to our budget crunch—a crunch that was larger than expected, because we were down more students than we predicted.

I’m going to come straight to the point, and I’m going to be blunt about it. What I’m about to say will make you think, “Driscoll, you’ve said this before.”

And my reply to your inner thought is yes, I’ve said it before. And I’m here to say it again.

With budget and demographic and social challenges, we are in a new reality. We will never again return to an enrollment of 15,000 or probably even 13,000. In the face of this new reality, we must find the best ways to shape the next generation—to keep students not just choosing IUP but making us their first choice.

You’ve heard me talk about this in many settings.

To serve our current students in the ways that generations of alumni have said they have benefited from IUP, we must change in the right ways quickly and continue to be flexible and agile in the future. We’ve made some progress, but we’ve not gone far enough in being able to make this very important promise, which is this:

For every student who is willing to work hard to better themselves, we will order all of our resources and all of our work to ensure that each student is successful—both here and after graduation.

I’ve also said that if we don’t act, the State System will do it for us. The old normal is gone and will never return.

I talked about these things at my opening of the academic year speech. I’ve talked about them during my listening tour, where I’ve solicited your feedback and ideas. I’ve even talked about it on the radio.

During listening tours, many of you have been generous with your ideas and forthright in your observations. You’ve identified places where you and your colleagues can work better together, and you’ve identified services that seem to fall short.

It’s time to take action on those things you’ve described—those things you surely also discuss among yourselves or at department or staff meetings.

I think it’s fair for you to ask if the hard work of change is worth the trouble, if there’s a positive way ahead or if we will just keep cutting and cutting until the last person to leave turns out the lights. I’ve asked myself that question, too.

I have two answers.

The first is financial only. We’ve done some very rough projections of future enrollment declines and hence declining revenue. To reduce expenses, we’ve also projected reducing our costs—primarily, but not solely by reducing the number of employees to better match the number of students we are serving. By relying primarily on attrition and not refilling positions as they become open, we can almost get to a balanced budget over the next three years. If we can do just a bit better in reducing our costs and just a bit better in improving our enrollment—with better retention and some new students—we can move to financial stability going forward.

My second answer is more fundamental. It’s what keeps me going. IUP’s mission—our sacred mission—is to transform people’s lives through education and scholarship. That’s why we have all chosen to be here. Because IUP is really, really good at this work. Because the world needs us. We must find a way through this so that IUP and the people who follow us will continue to meet the mission, regardless of the challenges.

Over the last year, as I’ve met with external and alumni groups, I’ve told my audiences that Generation Z members aren’t selfish drones who don’t want to work. Overall, they learn differently. They think differently. They are tech expectant. They are cost conscious. They are culturally open, and they are purpose driven. They care about the world and want to make a positive difference.

I’ve told them we must account for the shifting sands of workplaces—the twists and turns in technology, organizational structure, management best practices, and the greater need than ever for cross-disciplinary hard skills and knowledge.

I’ve also told them how our society benefits when students benefit from a strong undergraduate experience. I’ve cited a Purdue University/Pew Research Group poll that led to the creation of the Big Six, a list of characteristics that recent graduates have said made their undergraduate experience a fulfilling one.

Those characteristics include

  • That students had at least one professor who excites them about learning.
  • That professors cared about the students as a people.
  • That students had a mentor who encouraged pursuing dreams and goals.
  • That students had an opportunity for an internship or other opportunity that allowed them to apply classroom learning.
  • That students worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete.
  • That students were active in extracurricular activities and organizations.

You know what these audiences tell me? That they’re glad IUP is on top of this.

And we are on top of much of it, but we must do more, and we must do it quickly.

And, whatever we implement must be for the greater good—for the whole of the university, not for individual departments and programs. We must begin to think of what we offer our students as the IUP experience—not the department experience.

Understand that some centralization is necessary for strengthening the university—doing things in our own unique way. If you were there, you’ll recall in my opening of the academic year remarks that I said many of you are student friendly on an individual basis. We need to put all of that student friendliness into one concentrated formula rather than delivering it in diffused doses.

Delivering on Our Commitment

Current State

  • University College.
  • Academic Success Center.
  • Small-scale mentoring offerings.
  • Research opportunities.
  • Out-of-classroom experiences.
  • Leadership opportunities.
  • Military and Veterans Resource Center + ROTC.
  • International education.

Future State (What could we do?)

All current programming, plus the following:

  • Mentoring program for every student.
  • Service learning graduation requirement.
  • Guaranteed internships and/or graduation requirement.
  • Career planning embedded into the curriculum.
  • Enhance core curriculum to equip students with soft skills employers desire and life skills to be good citizens.
  • Cocurricular transcript.
  • Enhanced orientation.
  • Enhanced financial support through scholarships.

Look at the slide behind me (shown above). You’ll see on the left a list of things we have tackled in recent years. Those things are working well, and they’re a credit to your good thinking and actions.

On the right, you’ll see a list of things that we could consider consolidating, improving, or implementing.

If we are to be competitive, we must differentiate ourselves in the marketplace. I’ll remind you that our own market research shows prospective students view our academic programs as not as rigorous as Pitt or Penn State. Our marketing initiatives are tackling those perceptions, but they’ll only hold out for so long without more differentiators.

We need to be able to demonstrate that what we have to offer is different from the competition and better than what the competition offers.

We also need to make sure that we keep retention in the forefront of our thinking. I perfectly understand that many people already are working on innovative ideas.

So, I ask you: What are the resources and work that we can put behind a vision of ensuring every student is successful, that we are consistent in delivering what they all need?

For example, the provost and a group of volunteers from the Academic Affairs Division are in the beginning stages of an initiative that will look at best practices for determining what programs have the best opportunities and ability for productive change.

Look at this list behind me. What would happen if we incorporate career or graduate school planning across the curriculum? How would it further engage students, and would it set us apart from our competition?

Or what would a university-wide mentoring program bring to the experience we offer? What would happen if we could guarantee that all students would successfully depart IUP having completed a service project that shows up on a transcript? Or, how can we make sure that all the individual peer mentoring programs we currently offer have a consistent and high-quality outcome across the colleges and departments?

How can we streamline our business processes so that making a deposit to enroll is as easy as purchasing something from Amazon? How can we deliver—for example—academic certificate programs to people who need that kind of program but aren’t already enrolled as full- or part-time students?

The sky is the limit, but we need to reach across the aisle and work together and think of the whole rather than the pieces that comprise it.

I know we can do this, if we work collaboratively. As I said a few moments ago, we’re all in this together.

I’ll be glad to entertain your questions and your comments right now, but before I do, I encourage you to get involved. We’re considering some options for organizing and executing ideas. While we’ve not finalized those plans, we still want to collect ideas as well as begin to compile a list of those who have the expertise and interest to improve processes and help to plan and execute ideas.

Our MarCom Office has volunteered to compile a list.

Please register your interest by sending a message to marcom-inquiry@iup.edu.

With that, let’s get that microphone moving around the room, and let’s hear from you.