State of the University Address - Founders’ Day 2009
President Al Goldfarb - September 23, 2009
As I start my eighth year at Western, and what will be my final two years as President of this great university, I am again in awe of the accomplishments made by our community in spite of these very difficult budgetary times. And I am not exaggerating when I say that the last seven years have been the most challenging of my over 30 year career in Illinois.
Despite these challenges, Western has made remarkable progress. As we prepare for our Higher Learning Commission’s reaccreditation visit in 2011, one of the special focuses of our institutional report will be how our goals and accomplishments reflect our university’s core values. And the accomplishments of the past year truly reflect our university’s commitment to academic excellence, educational opportunity, personal growth and social responsibility.
Western has made significant strides in enhancing our historic reputation for academic excellence. The Provost’s state of academic affairs address and his office’s 2008-09 highlights publication clearly reflect our commitment to academic excellence through the development of new programs and our focus on existing programs.
We graduated our first doctoral students in Educational Leadership and plan to submit a request for our second doctoral program in Environmental Sciences. We enrolled our first students in our engineering and nursing programs. Engineering received a $1 million donation from the John Deere and Moline Foundations, which is allowing us to rent remodeled space in the Quad Cities and to purchase necessary equipment.
The quality of all our academic programs continues to receive national recognition from U.S. News and World Report and The Princeton Review.
Our strategic plan, Higher Values in Higher Education, called for an increase in graduation rates, retention rates, higher ACT scores for incoming freshmen, and an increased number of freshmen entering from the top quarter of their high school class. This year our graduation rate was the highest in the university’s history, 59.3 percent. Our retention rate for freshmen and for all students increased this fall, as did the incoming freshmen class’s ACT score. Last year, 22 percent of our new students were from the top quarter of their high school classes as compared to 24 percent of this year’s freshmen. Enrollment at the Quad Cities campus is its highest since 2002. We also continue to have success in diversifying our faculty, staff, and student body.
The capital bill signed this summer by the governor approved funding that will allow the University to provide some of our outstanding academic programs in updated, state of the art facilities.
Western received $68.7 million for our new Performing Arts Center, a facility we have been requesting since the 1970s. I hope we will be able to break ground in the summer, following the completion of construction drawings.
We received over $57 million for the first two buildings on our new riverfront campus in the Quad Cities. My hope is that renovation of the former John Deere Technical Center—building one on the riverfront campus—will soon be underway.
And we cannot forget that $3.5 million was allocated to Western for deferred maintenance. Those funds are desperately needed to keep our university functioning.
However, even without state funding in place, we have reallocated internally to support facilities projects that reflect the University's commitment to academic excellence. We continue to revitalize our electronic classrooms. Over the past years, we replaced the furniture in all of our classrooms. We now have a program to replace all of our faculty computers on a regular basis. The Division of Student Services provided space for electronic classrooms in our residence halls as well as for new computer labs.
University Technology is also partnering with many across campus, as Western enhances security, mobility, and user-support.
While there have been many accomplishments we do still face some considerable challenges. We must focus on increased freshmen recruitment and retention. While we had an increase in transfer students, the University has been losing its share of incoming freshmen. We must carefully review our recruitment procedures. We must focus on making freshmen recruitment a university-wide priority while continuing to improve the quality of our freshmen class. We must review our admission processes and recruitment approaches in an effort to increase our incoming enrollment.
We also cannot rest on the success we had this year in securing capital funds. Western has gone more than 30 years without funds for new facilities and we have a significant backlog of deferred maintenance projects.
We will continue to lobby the state for funds to begin a complete overhaul of our heating and cooling systems as well as $20 million for life-safety renovations in Macomb. We will request the planning funds for the third—and final building—on our new Moline riverfront campus as well as for a new science building in Macomb.
We need to provide our students with renovated and new state of the art facilities on both of our campuses; this will require that we continue to work with our regional legislators for funds for new facilities and for deferred maintenance since the State’s capital budget provides separate funding for new construction and for permanent improvements of existing facilities.
This past year, we continued to focus on our core value of personal growth. The new multicultural center, which will be officially dedicated at the October Board of Trustees meeting, reflects our commitment to diversity and multiculturalism.
The expansion of the Donald S. Spencer Recreation Center reflects our commitment to our campus community's health and wellness. Western's Office of Human Resources has also established the Western Well program to promote health and wellness through a wide variety of services offered to University faculty and staff.
Outside of the classroom, the University continues to enhance extracurricular activities for our students, including more theme programming and late night activities.
Still, we are confronted by the culture of alcohol that is problematic on all university campuses. We must ensure that excessive alcohol use by students and inappropriate behavior in our local community is not tolerated.
We must let those few students – who are truly are a small number – know that they will not tarnish the Western Illinois reputation. I have, therefore, asked that Student Services, with appropriate constituency groups, begin a review of our student judicial Code of Conduct in order to address the problems of alcohol abuse and inappropriate behavior.
Our commitment to our core value of educational opportunity is reflected in many recent actions. We expanded our cost guarantee to transfer students who complete their associate's degree and immediately enroll at Western.
We signed dual enrollment partnership agreements with Black Hawk College and Carl Sandburg College that will result in a considerable cost savings for these students, and we will work with other community colleges to offer the same program.
Out of twelve public universities in Illinois, we remain the 9th lowest in cost, and we now offer in-state tuition to all Iowa, Missouri, and Wisconsin residents.
The main focus of our fundraising campaign remains increasing scholarship dollars. We have, for example, raised funds that will fully support in perpetuity our 4 year Board of Trustees scholars. The past two years have been record breaking fundraising years. We are almost half way to our comprehensive campaign goal of $60 million. We will soon begin our faculty and staff campaign and I hope that the Western Illinois University community will join us in this endeavor.
We are grateful for the continued support and generosity of our alumni and friends; however, in the coming year, we must find additional funds for financial aid and scholarship. Our student indebtedness is increasing and we must stop that trend. We must continue to control cost increases while at the same time find additional funds to support our students so that they are able to complete their education.
Therefore, we must also immediately convince our legislators and governor to restore the Monetary Award Program (MAP) to at least its FY09 level or we will have almost 140,000 students in Illinois losing state-supported financial assistance this Spring semester. Nearly 25 percent of our student population will lose MAP aid. 2800 students will lose an average grant of $1500. A significant number of students will not be able to complete their college education, which will have long-term catastrophic consequences for the state of Illinois. I urge our legislators and our governor to find a way to restore MAP funding during the upcoming veto session.
We are an institution that works diligently to instill the core value of social responsibility within our students. This year we were chosen for the President’s – and that is the President of the United States – Honor Roll for Community Service and Volunteerism. This reflects the selfless volunteer work our students do.
GI Jobs Magazine chose us as a military friendly university, a reflection of Western’s historic support for returning veterans who want – and need – to complete their education. The upcoming dedication of the Wright House, donated by Dr. Ken and Mrs. Betty Wright, as a Veterans’ Resource Center further underscores our commitment to those who have served our nation and hope to complete their education.
Our new multicultural center, which is a Silver LEED building, reflects our commitment to sustainability, as do our new recycling bins and our new short-term on-campus rental vehicles, which will soon be available. We will also begin a search for a Sustainability Coordinator, a position which was created, in these difficult fiscal times, by the reallocation of funds in Administrative Services.
Yet, we have a fair number of students who do not take part in service and volunteer work. We must convince those students that there is a great need for active participation in our university’s communities; and when they graduate, there will continue to be a need for their involvement in the communities in which they live.
As I indicated at the opening, I have announced my retirement on June 30, 2011. I have done so to give our Board of Trustees and the campus community adequate time to prepare and complete a search for our 11th president. However, as I indicated in my announcement at the June Board meeting, I do not plan on being – nor could I ever actually be – a lame duck. There is much that needs to be accomplished to support our core values in these next two years.
First, the budget for the next fiscal year will most likely be even more strained than at any other time during this past decade. State revenues must increase or there will be continued significant shortfalls. In addition, the federal stimulus funds that are part of this year’s higher education budget will not be in the FY11 budget. We must plan carefully and take prudent measures for these upcoming budget realities.
In addition, as I mentioned earlier, we must increase our freshmen enrollment. We must continue to fundraise and complete our comprehensive campaign in order to support our students. The $60 million we raise will impact the University's future and assure that Western remains accessible and affordable. We must turn back the tide of increased debt load for our graduates.
We must continue to prepare for our February 14, 2011 Higher Learning reaccreditation visit. I appreciate the hard work of the committees and the leadership of Joe Rives and Judi Dallinger.
Finally, we must make certain that the capital funds for the Performing Arts Center and the riverfront campus in Moline are released as well as the funds for deferred maintenance.
These have been the most remarkable 7 years of my administrative career. Even during difficult economic times, the vitality and support of the Western Illinois University community continue to revitalize me and remind me of why I chose a career in higher education. We truly are institution that cares about higher values in higher education.
I look forward to 2 more years of working with everyone here. Thank you all again.