Before beginning my formal remarks, I would like to say how much of a great honor and privilege it is to be named the 12th president and 11th sitting president of Eastern Illinois University. I take the trust that has been given to me by the Board of Trustees and the EIU community most seriously, and I pledge heartfelt dedication to lead our great university to unsurpassed success. I would like to thank the Presidential Search Committee for their professionalism throughout the search. They made an anxious and multi-step ordeal for candidates easier by their welcoming and friendly attitude, timely communications and vast array of information about their beloved institution. I remember right before my off-campus interview began, Search Chair and Board of Trustee member Joe Dively gave me this advice: There’s a great group of people inside the room who love Eastern and the city of Charleston. Just relax and be yourself.” Although I can’t say I’m always relaxed, I have never attempted to be anything but myself and his words were much appreciated. My thanks also go out to the entire Board of Trustees for their vote of confidence and unwavering support since I began my tenure at EIU on June 1st.
When I sat down to write my remarks for this State of the University address, I remembered that it took President Abraham Lincoln only 272 words on November 19, 1863, to deliver one of the most eloquent and powerful State of the Nation addresses. His remarks, which took a little more than two minutes to deliver, served to change and motivate the hearts and minds of an entire country. Well, then I woke up from my procrastination and remembered I’m not President Lincoln -- so I hope you’ll indulge me for the next 45 minutes or so.
Conveyed to me during the presidential search process, the university’s greatest concern and challenge was to reverse its declining enrollment and the subsequent financial challenges that were the result of this decline. Subsequently, I had anticipated focusing my attention during the summer months on discussing an integrated enrollment plan with the admissions office and learning more about the university while waiting for most students and faculty to return to campus. My prioritization shifted dramatically and urgently during my second week after I thoroughly reviewed our 2016 fiscal budget. As you are all now aware, the budget showed a deficit of around $13 million dollars based on the most optimistic estimate for this year’s state appropriation of a reduction of 6.5 percent. This, in turn, was being added to an end-of-year additional reduction of 2.25 percent from the FY15 budget. The source and history of the growing deficit result from the university not matching its expenditures with its annually generated revenue over the past few years. In order to balance the budget, funds were annually supplemented from university reserves. This is not a sustainable business model unless major positive changes in revenue can be predicted, and all evidence with declining enrollments and declining appropriations does not support that conclusion. Additionally, the significant reduction in university reserves left the university in a more precarious state.
There was no alternative but to immediately develop a plan that would move the university toward a balanced budget. As plan development took place, it was shared with different constituency groups on campus and campus-wide communications were sent out. During times of stressful and quick response actions such as occurred, I realize that some will suggest that not enough information was shared or what was shared was not done so in a timely manner and that perhaps a larger number of faculty and staff leaders should have been more directly involved in the planning process. I do not disagree with these contentions, but to delay action would have had significant negative impact on our ability to stabilize the university’s expenses with expected incoming revenue.
The plan called for right-sizing our university (a term not popular with all, but remains most applicable) by decreasing expenses supported by appropriated and tuition funding and concurrently developing strategies to increase revenues through aggressive and meaningful advocacy on behalf of our appropriation and from generating higher student enrollments. Although a plan for decreasing expenses can be accomplished more quickly than implementing and receiving the positive financial outcomes of a plan for increasing revenues, ultimately our future success will be predicated on being able to stabilize and grow our enrollments while maintaining an appropriately sized employee base necessary to attract, manage and support students and provide our educational mission with excellence. No organization has cut its way to excellence and we will not do so at Eastern. In turn, we will need to become more adaptable to change, entrepreneurial in spirit, and aggressive in seeking and creating opportunities that will attract the students of the 21st century to our campus or through technology-based learning.
I do not intend today to go over the details of every cost reduction activity that has been implemented, many of which were informed by the CUPB’s Program Review. Instead, I will provide updated information relevant to some of the most pertinent questions being asked on campus relative to our budgetary position.
First, why did the previous plan to rectify our budget challenges through the natural attrition and re-hiring freeze of employees fail? Unfortunately, attrition savings and previous operating budget cuts over the past several years have not been enough to right-size the university in balancing its budget. They have, however, limited the level of what the deficit would have been had they not been implemented. In each of the past few years, our deficit in expenses relative to revenues continued to expand significantly as lower enrollments and decreased appropriations were occurring at a faster rate. These deficits were supplemented at the end of the year by using university cash reserves, which have now decreased to a critical level for our cash flow needs.
It is still too early and difficult to estimate whether our budget will be balanced this year. As yet, we have not received the level of our state appropriation, which is still being estimated somewhere between a reduction of 6.5 percent and 31.5 percent over last year.
Not knowing our appropriation severely handicaps our ability to strategically plan for the year and allow us to know the bottom line of our budget. The reductions we have instituted thus far through our expense-reduction plan of layoffs; furloughs; decreasing operating budgets; moving salaries from appropriated to non-appropriated funding, when justifiable; and other measures, have lowered our expenses for FY16 by approximately $10 million. Additional retirements and other employees choosing to depart the university throughout the year who we are not yet aware of will likely save another $1 million. The improved size of our freshman and graduate enrollments this year have increased our estimate of revenue by approximately $500 thousand, and another approximate $400 thousand is being realized by joining virtually all other universities in charging the credit card company fees for tuition payment to the card holder. All totaled, we believe we have reduced the expected $13 million deficit gap down to about $1 million. And that is a huge drop. Throughout the remainder of the year, we will continue working to reduce our expenses to achieve a balanced budget.
Many on campus are concerned with knowing when the budget adjustments will end and whether there will be more layoffs. In today’s higher education environment, it is more important than ever for universities to practice program review and budget adjustment strategies on an ongoing basis, not just in time of financial challenges. In fact, the ability to react quickly and be fluid in financial decision making, including decisions for reallocating resources between and among campus divisions, provides opportunity in leveraging current program strengths, resourcing strategic initiatives informed by our strategic plan and exploiting opportunities to enhance the university’s prestige or financial position.
Without knowing our state appropriation for this year and other factors, it cannot be competently predicted whether additional employee layoffs will be necessary for us to balance our FY16 budget. I do sincerely believe, however, that the magnitude of any additional layoffs, if they were to be necessary, will be relatively small to what we have already experienced. I will continue to provide honest and timely updates related to our budget and subsequent actions.
There is one final area of EIU’s budget that I wish to provide some clarity. The intercollegiate athletic budget is funded through numerous individual sources, including tuition waivers, donations, sponsorships, revenue generated from ticket and other sales, NCAA funding, paid-for games, student fees and appropriated funds. Of these sources, the last two – student fees and appropriated funding -- have been most scrutinized and occasionally criticized by various members of the campus community.
From the university’s appropriated and tuition revenue (of about $90 million), intercollegiate athletics received $1.6 million or 1.8 percent of dollars generated from these sources this past year. This is down from $1.9 million a few years ago. In response to budget adjustments and the sharing of the financial burden across all divisions, I further cut the athletic appropriated and tuition funding an additional 20 percent or $320 thousand (down to a total of $1.28 million).
Last year, the student athletic fee was increased by $4.36 per credit hour. The increase was to assist intercollegiate athletics in meeting its expenses – an action that has become ever challenging with the steady decline in student enrollments resulting in significantly less fee revenue generation. The fee had not been adjusted in seven years. It reached a point for the last three years that without an increase in athletic fees or appropriated funding, intercollegiate athletics ran annual deficits varying between about $300,000 to slightly less than $1 million. These deficits were covered, as were other deficit spending by the university, by university reserves. With the new student fee rate in place, and although having to deal with a reduction in their appropriated funding, intercollegiate athletics has been charged with maintaining a balanced budget.
I have had many thoughtful discussions with Tom Michael, our athletic director, and we are in agreement of the importance of intercollegiate athletics as part of Eastern’s student university experience. We also agree there is the need for strict fiscal responsibility and accountability by his division, which includes assessing the array and number of sports teams supported by the university and taking appropriate actions as deemed warranted. Today, I will be transitioning the reporting line of intercollegiate athletics from the Office of Student Affairs to the Office of the President for my direct supervision.
With our budget adjustments now being put in place, it will provide a chance for us to take a long-needed breath, an opportunity to recognize the good in what we do and what we accomplish, and rededicate ourselves to our strategic plan focused on enrollment growth, academic excellence and a positive work environment.
Today’s message is one of optimism and a call for positive thinking. Eastern has a great educational tradition, truly wonderful faculty and staff, a beautiful campus, and students and alum who love their EIU experience. We have so much to be proud of and thankful for. I call for joining together as a campus community in shared optimism for that which we have and can achieve.
The state of the university is strong and improving. Our strategies and leadership in student recruitment have successfully resulted in reversing a multi-year trend of smaller first-time freshman classes with an increase of 2 percent for this year over last. This is the first sign that we are moving toward a stabilized enrollment. Increased enrollments over last year were also seen in graduate students by 3.5 percent; international students, 6.6 percent; and honors students by 5 percent. In addition, we made significant progress in recruiting Latino and Latina students with a 6.1 percent increase over last year.
These successes are positive indicators and they are not coincidental, especially during the most competitive student recruitment environment in the history of higher education in America. They are the result of hard work, strategic planning and the execution of those plans; innovative program development such as the fast-growing hybrid MA in Art -- Art Education; and the contributions of the entire campus -- from those who keep the campus beautiful to those faculty, staff and students who engage directly with our prospective students and their parents. And, let’s also not forget the power of the friendly gestures or hello that all of us provide to our campus visitors.
Although we have made some measurable progress, student recruitment will remain a priority focus of our attention as we move forward. Changing student demographics, career-based interests and increased expectations for technology-based learning will challenge us to continue our path of becoming more adaptable and flexible to the education marketplace. Already I have heard from multiple EIU departments who are exploring three-year degree programs, increasing online course availability at the undergraduate and graduate levels, considering new 3+2 undergraduate/master’s programs, rebranding their current program, or developing new market-driven undergraduate and graduate programs. This innovative and entrepreneurial spirit is essential for our future success and, in turn, we must invest resources to those initiatives that strengthen our university’s prestige, recognition and financial position. The quality of our students remains strong; we just need more of them. This will call for strategically allocating additional resources to university marketing, branding and recruitment efforts.
Our university continues to receive accolades and validations of our success from outside sources. U.S. News and World Report has again listed EIU highest in ranking of all public, regional comprehensive universities in the state of Illinois and No. 5 among the 12-state Midwest regional public master’s universities.
We have been cited among the Best Online Colleges in Illinois for 2015-16 by online colleges.net and recognized for the third consecutive year in Princeton Review’s Guide to 322 Green Colleges. Our city of Charleston has been named the second safest college town in America and the second most affordable college town in America by The SafeWise Report and Business Insider, respectively.
Our University Advancement Office had an excellent FY15 with gifts received and pledged of $11.1 million, exceeding the year’s goal of $10 million. This is the fifth straight year of exceeding the $10 million goal. The office also exceeded its mini campaign to achieve 100 new student scholarships, and they did it faster than anyone expected -- by more than two years. So we’ve now upped our goal to 150 new scholarships by the original deadline of June 20, 2017.
This past year, our Student Affair’s division was recognized for the fourth consecutive year by the National Association of Student Personnel Administrators as a recipient of the NASPA Lead Initiative on Civic Learning and Democratic Engagement. This year, NASPA elevated EIU to the status of an Advisory Institution based on the excellence of our programming provided to our students.
And, I absolutely must recognize the level of EIU student community service. During the past year, 7,400 EIU students participated in community service events totaling 159,000 hours of service to Charleston and other communities. There is no question: EIU IS developing servant leaders and ethical citizens for the future of Illinois -- a fact we will continue to share with our government officials.
I have already mentioned intercollegiate athletics today, but I would like to recognize their accomplishments for last year on and off the field. Team championships in the Ohio Valley Conference were achieved by women’s indoor track and men’s outdoor track. Off the field, our student-athletes amassed several academic honors and accomplishments and one national best. In Fall 2014, the overall GPA for all sports was a 3.13, with 16 of our sports teams achieving an average GPA above 3.0. Similar success was achieved during the spring semester where the overall GPA of our student-athletes was a 3.15. And finally, Eastern’s women’s swimming team was recognized by the College Swimming Coaches Association of America as having the highest GPA for NCAA Division 1 teams in the nation.
Our Office of Research and Sponsored Programs reported a strong year for the university in securing external funding for research, educational and social outreach, student support services, and creative performance. This, despite heavy competition across the country for a diminishing pool of governmental and private funds. Fifty-two new external grants were funded with awards totaling more than $4 million. Successful proposals were submitted from across our university divisions and among all four colleges. Last year’s two largest service and outreach awards were received by Jack Neal of WEIU and co-PIs Ms. Misty Baker and Dr. Karla Kennedy-Hagan of our Family and Consumer Sciences Department. Our three largest faculty research awards were all secured by faculty members in the Department of Biological Sciences. Congratulations to Drs. Eric Bollinger, Robert Colombo, Jeffrey Laursen, Scott Meiners, Michael Menze and Charles Pederson on their outstanding efforts. To be clear, all externally funded grants and contracts, regardless the size of award, are positive indicators of significant accomplishment and worthy of recognition. Each award benefits the proposed projects of our faculty and staff, and greatly adds to the prestige and reputation of our university.
The heart and soul of our university lies in its educational mission and those responsible for its delivery and standards of excellence. I have purposely placed academics at the crescendo of my remarks on the strength of the state of our university. Eastern’s academic colleges, departments and award-winning and nationally recognized faculty continue with great dedication and commitment.
Of course, there is not enough time in this State of the University address to provide but a very short set of examples reflecting the excellence taking place in our four colleges, the Graduate School, the Sandra and Jack Pine Honors College, the School of Continuing Education and Booth Library -- an exceedingly difficult task as there is not one academic department or unit that doesn’t deserve mention. I fear by leaving so many deserving and impressive accolades out, I risk the value of recognizing those mentioned. But here are a few:
A preeminent quality assessment of a university or academic program is accomplished by securing the national validation of accrediting bodies. Accreditors assure that the institution or program meets the myriad requirements demonstrating its excellence, accountability, professionalism of its instructional faculty, and adequate resources to maintain a high level of performance. Eastern has an outstanding historical record of securing and maintaining program accreditation.
Last year, the university was awarded its reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, receiving a perfect 10-year re-accreditation. Preparation for an HLC accreditation review is an arduous activity calling upon dozens of faculty and staff to devote tremendous numbers of hours in multiple subcommittees developing the data and self-study report. Congratulations to all those who participated in this momentous task, especially Dr. Jeff Stowell and former Dean Bob Augustine for leading the University HLC reaccreditation Steering Committee.
Congratulations, also, to the several academic schools and departments who received their reaccreditations last year for the excellence of their programs: Business (from AACSB), Health Studies (from SABPAC), Nursing (from CCNE), Recreation Administration (from NRP/AALR) and the Tarble Arts Center (from the AAM).
New academic programs that were added last year or will be introduced this year include the BA in Health Promotion and Leadership, MS in Biochemistry and Biotechnology and an MA in Aging Studies. Other programs that were modified for online cohorts or for hybrid delivery include the BS in Family and Consumer Science, BS in Organizational and Professional Development, BS in Recreational Administration, MA in Art – Art Education, MA in Music – Music Education, MS in Family and Consumer Sciences, and an MBA offered by the School of Business. Hopefully, I haven’t missed any.
The productivity of Eastern’s faculty in research and creative activity production as demonstrated by peer-reviewed publications, performances and exhibitions is exceptionally impressive. Last year, the faculty were responsible for furthering the knowledge of their academic disciplines through publishing no less than seven scholarly books, 187 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters, and presenting their research at 266 national and international academic conferences. Our faculty in art, theatre, dance and music presented myriad performances and exhibitions in venues across the country. I strongly applaud the high level of research and scholarship production occurring among our faculty. And, make no mistake, I value this contribution in the best sense of the teacher-scholar model and know just how an active research and creative agenda can inform classroom instruction, motivate students in learning, keep faculty current in their discipline, and add prestige to our university.
I’m also pleased to note the strong focus and success that Eastern continues to place on faculty student research collaborations. Last year, Eastern was one of just 29 public universities recognized by the Council on Undergraduate Research for exceptionally high participation in its annual national conference. Our honors college sponsored 32 student presenters to travel to the national conference in Washington State, the largest number of any public university in Illinois, Missouri or Indiana.
Among the many other accomplishments of our academic division, I note the success of our new STEP program developed by Eastern’s Autism Center for students diagnosed on the spectrum of autism. Under the leadership of Dr. Gail Richard and her student staff, the program has become both a unique living laboratory for student learning about autism and its related communication disorders, but also an excellent program to assist in providing EIU students with autism various skills and support for a successful university experience.
The historical administration graduate students of our History Department, in collaboration with the College of Education and Professional Studies, received a 2015 Award of Distinction from the Illinois Association of Museums in recognition of their exhibit, “Mission, Method, Memory: The Lab School at Eastern Illinois University.”
Eastern’s new Sustainable Entrepreneurship through Education and Development Center (or simply, SEED Center) which is now the interdisciplinary home for entrepreneurial education, research and community outreach, is proving to be a success. Under the directorship of Dr. Marco Grunhagen, the center served 30 new business clients, assisted businesses in generating two loans totaling $325,000 dollars, and helped five businesses be created during the past year.
The School of Continuing Education’s Academy of Lifelong Learning continued to provide its educational outreach through non-credit bearing courses in culture, health, science and the arts. Last year, the academy engaged more than 1,100 participants for its 65 courses and events.
And finally, Booth Library was awarded the 2014 Illinois Library Association Demco Library Innovative Award in recognition of its exceptional programming success. It has become the place for collaborative learning and a hub for academic interaction among students. And it is certainly far from idle. Last year alone, Eastern faculty and students completed more than three million searches in the electronic databases and resources held at Booth Library, and book and chapter downloads numbered 421,000.
I believe you can see that the list of academic accomplishments could easily and justifiably go on all evening. We are proud to have a world class faculty that are committed and dedicated to their craft and share core values in excellence and student success.
Yes, the state of the university is strong. But we are at a crossroads in defining our future Pathway to Success, which is the phrase I have been using to frame my vision for EIU. It is a crucial time for our campus in moving forward. The environment of higher education has never been more different, complex and challenging than it is today. And we have already witnessed across the country that maintaining a status quo position will be a downward spiraling strategy for most universities. For the sustainability of our university, we must begin today to place our energies and our focus into a revisioned future, with positive attitude and excitement for the opportunities that present themselves.
The vision itself, simplistic and non-controversial, resides with continuing and enhancing the long tradition of Eastern’s public educational mission through academic excellence while retaining our core values and as a financially stable mid-sized regional comprehensive university for our next 120 years. It is not the vision that provides extraordinary thought or difficult solicitation for buy-in; rather, the process or Pathway to achieve this vision provides all the challenges, excitement and difficult decisions that will be called for.
Today, I will outline a framework for a Pathway envisioned to achieve our desired outcome, but no realization can be made without campus support, collaborative action in refining the Pathway, and belief in it. Our future lies in our own hands and our courage to action, and sharing in the sacrifices and work required toward its success.
The Pathway continues to leverage our strengths in undergraduate and graduate academic excellence and institutional brand as a university that engages students and provides a high-impact and academically rich education for an attractively affordable cost. The Pathway maintains our strength and commitment to an undergraduate education that has its foundational base in the liberal arts and humanities for every EIU student. The Pathway continues to maintain the strength and commitment to our professional and pre-professional programs. And the Pathway maintains our commitment to shared governance in its process and the development of interdisciplinary and interdivisional taskforces and committees, as needed.
Yet, to achieve our Pathway to Success, we must also be amenable to making significant changes in our operations and procedures toward greater levels of efficiency, becoming more flexible and adaptable to respond to a fast-changing external environment, increasing our ability to reallocate resources in a timely manner, and becoming increasingly more innovative in our program development, curriculum scheduling and educational delivery formats. All of these factors are inter-connected and dependent upon one another.
We must urgently explore altering our existing programs when appropriate, as well as developing new programs, both undergraduate and graduate, that will appeal to students and grow our enrollments. At times, a simple name change of a major or department can greatly attract the attention and enhance student recruitment. Names do matter in this competitive environment. Several departments I have spoken with have already begun modifying programs and conceiving new programs that will meet the interests and career paths sought by students today in various fields of business, technology, and health care. And I am sure other departments are having similar conversations of programmatic changes and student recruitment strategies.
In revisioning our future, the faculty, in collaboration with academic administrators, must begin to identify, or reaffirm, a limited number of programs and disciplines that will define EIU as our premiere programs noted for their excellence in quality, national recognition and strong student recruitment potential. In today’s higher education environment, an array of such programs is necessary for continued enrollment growth, brand recognition and prestige of the university. They should be found in each of our four colleges and the Graduate School, and we must be willing as a university to support these premiere programs with appropriate resources to help maximize their outreach of excellence.
Exploring new innovative partnerships for program delivery will be an essential component to EIU’s Pathway to Success. Partnership programs between public institutions have become a key sustainability strategy in several state systems.
We have already begun exploring a partnership between EIU’s nursing program and Lake Land College for developing a dual-enrolled, joint degree four-year program leading to the BSN in nursing. The partnership is positioned to create a very unique, high demand and competitively affordable program benefitting both institutions. I believe this model has great potential and, if successful, it will likely be replicated by other EIU departments that see similar opportunity.
The Pathway calls for continued faculty and staff development and enhanced technology support needed for EIU to provide quality educational programming to multiple types of learners. Whether students are traditional or non-traditional, able to come to campus or are place-bound, Eastern must consider pathways though innovative strategies to accommodate these learners.
In order for us to plan our university’s future, we must realistically define our optimal enrollment size given current demographics, market-place competition, and our own interests in financial sustainability. This past year we graduated a large, excellent class of students into the workforce or on to graduate and professional programs. Our Fall 2015 enrollment stands at approximately 8,500 students and our senior class is the largest of our four. As our new freshman classes meet or exceed the previous year’s freshman class, we should be able to stabilize our total enrollments and begin to grow them by 2017. To do so, it will be essential that we deploy adequate resources to our marketing and admissions efforts.
EIU has crafted the brand of an academically high quality and friendly university with small classes; high faculty/student engagement inside and outside the classroom, having the majority of courses taught by full-time faculty; superior student services and support; competitive intercollegiate athletics; and strengths in all areas of teacher education and several other academic disciplines, as well. We are also known for strong retention, graduation and placement rates relative to our peers.
In part, we have been successful in creating our brand through maintaining very low student-to-faculty ratios (currently for Fall 2015 at 14:1) and very low student-to-non-instructional employees ratios (currently for Fall 2015 at 8:1). Comparing ourselves to 2013 data of 32 Midwestern public comprehensive universities, our student/faculty ratio would rank us tied for the lowest and our student/non-instructional employees ratio would rank us third lowest. The average student/faculty ratio of the 32 universities was 19:1 (compared to our 14:1), and for the student/non-instructional employee ratio, it averaged 12.5:1 (compared to our 8:1). It is important to note that EIU’s current student/faculty and student/non-instructional employees ratios are both lower than what they had been when we had enrollments of 10,000 students.
There is an extremely high financial expense to the university in maintaining very low ratios in both of these categories at the same time, but it does attest to the success of being able to support our brand of providing a private-like university experience at a very affordable public regional institution. The result, however, has become an immense financial challenge for Eastern to maintain these very low ratios while student enrollment revenue continues to go down, exacerbated by a steady annual decrease in state appropriations. It is simply not sustainable.
It is also reasonable to suggest that another complicating factor is the higher and steeper rate of administrative costs to the university relative to increases for instructional costs over the last several years. And although this is a national trend, and that the May 2013 Auditor General Report of the State of Illinois stated that Eastern has the lowest administrative costs per student of all 12 Illinois public universities, there is no doubt that this is a factor, and one that needs to be carefully reviewed. We must keep any rise in administrative costs in check and seek solutions to reduce their costs through efficiency of operations.
During this academic year, I plan to meet with our academic and staff leadership, including the vice presidents, deans, department chairs, Faculty Senate, Staff Senate and others, to hear their thoughts on what they believe are appropriate ratios for student/faculty and student/non-instructional employees given the university’s financial position and other factors. It is my intention to set ratio goals that will guide the university’s planning by the end of this academic year.
Our Pathway to Success must also include the efforts of our neighbors in Charleston, Mattoon and all of Coles and nearby counties to become close partners in the support of Eastern Illinois University and our students. We look to them for creating an ongoing positive and friendly community environment, assisting our efforts in recruiting students, showing their pride for EIU to prospective student families as they visit our campus, and sharing the optimism and positivism we have for our university.
In turn, EIU must support our neighbor cities through community service, economic enrichment, respect and gratitude, as well as serving as the intellectual, cultural and entertainment center of East-Central Illinois. For the future good of our region and the prosperity of its citizens, EIU, Charleston and Mattoon must be joined in spirit and purpose. I want to thank Mayor Brandon Combs of Charleston, Mayor Tim Gover of Mattoon and Charleston City Manager Scott Smith – all three alums of Eastern – for reaching out and expressing their individual and collective desire to enhance the relationship that exists between EIU and their cities.
Lastly, and that which has been mentioned throughout today’s remarks, is the importance of executing a strategic, comprehensive, integrated and effective marketing and enrollment plan for the university in our Pathway to Success. We must continue the strategies that are working, abandon those that are not, perfect our messaging to students and parents, and insure flawless visit day experiences for our prospective students and their families.
It is typical for universities to budget approximately 1 percent or more of their total budget toward marketing and advertising purposes. If we used Eastern’s total funds budget, that would equate to more than $2 million. If we used only appropriated and tuition-driven funds that we have flexibility in use, it would equate to a lower limit of marketing and advertising funds of about $900,000. Our current marketing and advertising budget for last year was approximately $700,000, which also included the salaries of our university communications and marketing staff. Our amount is substantially lower than what is spent on marketing by SIU-C, SIU-E, Western Illinois, NIU, Illinois State and Indiana State. In some cases, the difference is more than a million dollars. For us to compete successfully and become the “un-hidden university gem” of the state, we will need to more strategically and efficiently use our marketing dollars and also consider increasing the budget dedicated to marketing our institution.
Our recruitment efforts also need to be intensified in our local and regional communities, as well as the large markets of Chicago, St. Louis and Indianapolis. We must begin to create affinity with students no later than their junior year and recapture our market lost to in-state and out-of-state competitors. Our admission activities must be carefully structured to reach the enrollment targets set for each year and achieve our defined optimal enrollment position with students who meet our standards and whom we believe can be successful at Eastern.
Recruitment of students is the responsibility of all of us – the admissions office, faculty, administrators and staff. EIU students themselves are excellent recruiters for our university. And I hope our alums and friends of the university feel the same way. Please do all you can to promote our university with optimism on and off campus.
The remarks I expressed today were honest and sincere. I am extremely confident that a bright future lies ahead of us, filled with opportunity and success. Eastern Illinois University has a great tradition of excellence and meeting its educational mission for the past 120 years. It has always taken pride in its most important resource -- its people -- and has not waned from its focus on student success. It has survived two world wars, multiple geopolitical conflicts, a great depression, and is emerging from the recent great recession. It has found a way to re-envision itself through four name changes and the broadening of its mission as a normal school to a highly ranked, public, regional comprehensive university. It has taught students the knowledge and skills to be successful members of society during the industrial revolution, the transistor age, the computer age and now the information age.
The university has seen growth in student enrollments to a level that cried for “no mas” to the most recent nine-year declining trend in enrollments which echoed “mas, mas, por favor.” In the ebb and flow of the great tradition of EIU, it has always persevered through the good decisions and intentions of its campus community. It is our turn now to come together – faculty, staff, administration, trustees, and the city of Charleston -- to use our collective and collaborative intellect and energies to set the successful and financially sustainable path for EIU.
Once again, it is truly my honor and privilege to lead Eastern to its vision. Thank you all for your support.