Today: Jun 17, 2024

Smith addresses plans to combat deficit

Jaylen Carr – Editor-in-Chief

Ali Fernand – Managing Editor

The university is facing a deficit in the budget, threatening the institution to make tough decisions. However, Interim President Dwayne Smith assured that a solution is possible.  

“With a 1% increase in our enrollment, it will generate 1 million dollars in revenue,” Smith said. 

At the current rate, Smith reported that the university will be in a $13 million deficit by 2025. Due to the pandemic, enrollment numbers have decreased, but the university has slowly tried to recover.  

“Enrollment, retention, persistence and degree completion success is the number one priority,” Smith said. “The goal is to increase overall student enrollment by 25% by 2028.” 

The university announced a five-year plan is in place. The goal of that plan is to create a larger student body that is successful in earning their degrees. The goal is to have over 10,000 students enrolled, increasing transfer scholars by 25% and the graduation rate by 60%.  

“We were in the upward trajectory with our cohort graduation rate, we were up to 53. Now we’re at 47, and we can attribute that to COVID,” President Smith said. 

Another significant aspect of Smith’s plan is trying to help with diversity in the community. According to the six-year graduation rate by race and ethnicity —fall 2017 cohort, students who are Black, Hispanic and two or more races were below 50%.  

“People are leaving states because of the political atmosphere, and they want a place like Southern,” Smith said.   

Coming from a large family and having a mother born when Blacks could not receive an education, Smith believes that having a college degree still holds value.  

“For the first time in the history of our country, most Americans are saying that college is not a good option,” Smith said, according to a New York Times article. “College is a good option for our scholars.” 

The inflated costs of attending university are the reason that fewer students are deciding to pursue a higher education. Offering scholarships in ways that encourage students to stay in school may be a solution to that problem. 

 Smith offers solutions he believes will encourage students to remain enrolled. The falling of retention and graduation rates is not unique to this university, but still raises issues. 

“It’s not perplexing, but we understand that, that and research says if you live on campus, you’re more likely to persist,” Smith said. “One solution is that we offer scholarships for those who live on campus.” 

Smith reported that his goal is to increase external grants and support to $14 million every year. He is confident that he will be able to find people willing to invest in the university. 

One piece of good news is that the university has received a $3.2 million grant to encourage growth of the STEM department. 

“We are looking at the numbers for the first time,” Yi-Chun Tricia Lin, the Director and Professor of the Women’s Studies Program, said. “Personally, I am excited about a lot of things that I am hearing.” 

Robert Prezant, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, said generating funding and retention will be the central focus. With a 13 million deficit currently, the worry is among faculty because there may be cuts.  

“Everything is possible, and I want you to remember that everything is possible when we talk about these big goals,” Smith said. 

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