1. Have UE’s current financial problems been caused by a decrease in the number of 18-year-olds?
UE’s Fact Book reports that the size of UE’s freshman classes declined 33% between 2010 and 2019. According to data from the National Center for Education Statistics and the US Census Bureau, the number of high school graduates increased over 17% nationwide between 2009 and 2019. The Indiana Department of Education reports a 10% increase in high school graduates between 2010 and 2019. In 2019, Vanderburgh County reported more high school graduates than at any time in the past decade. Demographics are not at the heart of UE’s fiscal problems.
2. If demographic shifts are not the cause of UE’s current financial problems, what is?
Key members of UE’s senior administration and the Board of Trustees believe demographics are the problem and so the university cannot grow enrollment. They have, therefore, declined to make needed investments in the Office of Admissions. The university’s last president, President Kazee, cut that office’s budget, and UE’s salary freezes and benefit cuts during recent years have left admissions counselors underpaid when compared to similar positions at other institutions. This makes it difficult for the university to retain talented counselors. In September 2019, President Pietruskiewicz fired the head of Admissions and replaced him with an interim director with no prior experience in student recruitment. That director remains in place today. At the time of writing, the university does not have a comprehensive plan to grow enrollment.
3. A UE trustee stated that “administrative positions have been continually reduced” to pay for an increased number of faculty positions. Is this true?
According to UE’s own records, in 2000, there were 168 full-time administrators and 173 full-time faculty; in 2005, 164 full-time administrators and 175 full-time faculty; in 2010, 176 full-time administrators and 174 full-time faculty; in 2015, 187 full-time administrators and 169 full-time faculty; in 2020, 190 full-time administrators and 165 full-time faculty. Full-time faculty have thus decreased by around 5% and full-time administrators have increased by 13% from 2000-2020.
4. Does Division 1 Athletics make a profit for UE?
There is not a sufficient quantity of publicly available information for this question to be answered here. The university reported to the Department of Education that it spent $12 million on Athletics in the 2018-19 academic year, but the university has in recent years released no information to the public regarding the profits or deficits of the Athletics program. In a recent opinion piece in the Evansville Courier and Press, Trustee Curt Begle wrote that, “in addition to driving admissions, athletics, perhaps more than any department, program or person, … helps drive funding and revenue for the University.” Tellingly, however, Begle provided no numbers to support this assertion.
5. Do Division 1 sports attract students to UE?
In 2014, at a university-wide forum, then Vice President for Institutional Advancement Jack Barner presented a summary of a marketing survey that the STAMATS firm had conducted of prospective students and their parents. Only 5% of respondents stated that they considered athletics when selecting a university to attend. The top two factors in their decisions were the variety of the academic programs and the quality of the faculty. No more recent marketing data on the relationship between athletics and enrollment has been shared with the faculty.
6. The president has said that students whose majors are being eliminated will still be able to graduate with their chosen major. Is that correct?
The Senior Administration is currently in the process of constructing teach-out plans to enable students impacted by the university’s realignment to graduate with their chosen majors. There are two causes for concern regarding this process. The first relates to the matter of accreditation. There are departments that are worried that the release of their current faculty will cause their programs to lose their accreditation. In many fields, accredited degrees are significantly more valuable than unaccredited ones. The second cause for concern relates to the quality of the teaching within the majors that will be phased out. The Senior Administration has said that it may need to bring in visiting or adjunct faculty to enable students to complete their majors. It has also raised the possibility of relaxing its transfer policies to enable students to take the courses they need elsewhere. By definition, visiting faculty, adjunct faculty, and faculty at other institutions would not have the same kinds of long-term relationships with the university’s students that UE’s full-time faculty do, and therefore all of these scenarios will result in students completing their majors via a diminished experience.
7. The President has said that he has provided the faculty with all the data that the Senior Administration used in putting together the draft academic realignment plan. Is that data accurate and complete?
On January 12th, in an open letter to the Board of Trustees, the Faculty Senate’s Executive Committee pointed out a number of the flaws and omissions within the offered data: it does not take into account double majors; it ignores how eliminating courses and faculty in one major affects other majors; it does not consider the number of non-majors faculty teach; it contains no modelling of the future enrollments, costs and revenues of the university’s current programs; it lacks any projections for either the programs in which the Senior Administration now intends to invest or those that it seeks to add; and, lastly, it overlooks the importance of programmatic diversity to enrollment and, thereby, the university’s finances.
8. Over the past decade, UE has invested in the Stone Family Center for Health Sciences and shifted faculty resources away from three of its colleges into the fourth, Education and Health Sciences, in the belief that students are demanding more programs in the healthcare field. By how much has enrollment in Health Sciences programs increased?
Combined undergraduate and graduate enrollment in Health Sciences programs declined by 37% between 2010 and 2020 according to data in the UE Fact Book. Over the same period, the number of full-time faculty positions in the College of Education and Health Sciences increased by 27%. This stands in contrast to the university’s other three colleges, which collectively lost approximately 15% of their faculty positions between 2010 and 2020. The faculty increase within the College of Education and Health Sciences occurred within three programs: Physical Therapy, Physician Assistant Science, and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. Faculty numbers in the other areas of the College of Education and Health Sciences did not increase.
9. UE has a long list of courses that qualify as General Education courses. Wouldn’t it save money to trim some of those courses?
To keep its institutional accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission, UE must require its students take a certain number of General Education courses. The university helps students to meet their General Education requirements by allowing a great variety of courses to count towards those requirements. The current problem with the General Education program is not that it contains too many courses. Rather, it is that the university presently lacks the staffing resources to offer enough sections of its General Education courses each semester and this makes it more difficult for students to complete their General Education requirements. The implementation of the draft academic realignment plan would only exacerbate this problem.
10. Does constructing new buildings increase enrollment?
This graph shows the relationship between UE’s enrollment and its construction projects over the last 25 years.
As can be seen, there is absolutely no correlation between new construction and enrollment. Indeed, in his book The Crisis in Higher Education, the president of Adrian College, Jeffery Docking, explains that it is a common fallacy among university administrators and board members that new construction leads to increased enrollment (pp. 27-8).