Chapter 6: Criterion Four
The institution can continue to accomplish its purposes and strengthen
its educational effectiveness
Current Resource Base
Chapter 4 reviewed the history and current state of human resources at UNK, in terms of students, faculty, administrators, and support staff. It established that UNK possesses a sufficient resource base that allowed it to accomplish its purposes. The following section shows that UNK is capable of maintaining this resource base for the future.
UNK has always attracted some of the finest students from Nebraska and the surrounding states. These students are bright, dedicated and determined to succeed. Still, as shown in chapter 4, over the past decade the students attending this institution became even better qualified. The entering freshmen class has a higher average ACT and high school class rank. Given the qualities that UNK will instill in them, these students will undoubtedly contribute to a brighter future for UNK.
After a period of decline, UNK's enrollment has now stabilized, meeting one of the objectives of the 1995-2005 Strategic Plan. Headcount enrollment for the fall of 2003 was 6,379. This represented a 0.3% decline from the previous year. However, full-time freshman and transfer headcount numbers increased over fall 2002, as did undergraduate enrollment overall. Fall 2003 student credit hours also increased by nearly 1% compared to the prior year. Recruitment efforts have been guided by a strategy that was presented to the Board of Regents in March of 2001 and that is adjusted annually in light of recruitment results.
In March, 2001, UNK presented a Student Recruitment Plan to the Board of Regents. An executive summary of the plan is on file in the Resource Room. There were three basic strategic thrusts of the plan:
- It highlighted the need for better marketing of UNK.
- It mobilized a campus-wide and community recruitment partnership among the Admissions Office, academics, and the Kearney community.
- It established a merit scholarship awards procedure that targeted the Honors Program, the "high-middle" range of the applicant pool, and students of ethnic minority status.
Although increases in enrollment from international students have broadened UNK's student body (See Table 6.1), diversity remains a challenge that UNK will pursue actively. The growing Hispanic population in central and western Nebraska gives UNK an opportunity to increase the number of Hispanic students. To realize this opportunity, UNK hired an additional admissions counselor in FY 2000 with the assignment of recruiting Hispanic students.
|UNK Student Ethnicity, 1997-2003|
|1997||3.62 %||3.19 %||6.82 %||93.18 %|
|1998||3.45 %||3.14 %||6.59 %||93.41 %|
|1999||3.37 %||3.04 %||6.41 %||93.59 %|
|2000||3.63 %||2.53 %||6.16 %||93.84 %|
|2001||4.89 %||3.07 %||7.96 %||92.04 %|
|2002||5.27 %||3.48 %||9.34 %||91.25 %|
|2003||5.55 %||3.79 %||9.34 %||90.66 %|
In addition to increasing the size and diversity of the student body, UNK remains committed to maintaining the quality of incoming students. The University Entrance Requirements, established in 1997, have contributed greatly to this effort.
A stable and well-prepared faculty has allowed UNK to establish degree programs that prepare UNK's students for an ever-changing world experience. This faculty, dedicated to teaching and actively engaged in research and publication, often encourage their students to participate. The percentage of faculty with terminal degrees increased from 68.1% in the fall of 1993 to 72.0% in the fall of 2002. Again, this suggests a bright future for this institution.
With more than one-third of the full-time faculty now above 55 years of age, UNK will face the challenge of replacing numerous retiring faculty members during the next decade. While UNK has had success in recruiting faculty in the past decade, as with any labor market, UNK's ability to fill faculty vacancies with high-quality applicants depends upon a number of factors, both external and internal.
Externally, the general financial state of higher education and the number of vacancies will play major roles in the level of competition for faculty. The severity of the state fiscal crisis and the slow recovery suggests that state-funded institutions will continue to suffer budget woes nationwide. The availability of faculty in certain fields is another factor affecting recruitment. Internally, the ability to offer competitive salaries, fringe benefits, and working conditions will have a major impact on UNK's ability to fill positions with well-qualified applicants.
Although state funding may continue to be somewhat unstable, UNK will receive sufficient financial resources that will position it for the future. As noted earlier, UNK has historically been under funded. Still, the State of Nebraska and the University-system budgetary processes are incremental in nature. It is likely that state funding for UNK will change by relatively small percentages from year-to-year. A scenario where other state institutions and agencies are spared from cuts at the expense of large program reductions at UNK is unlikely.
A review of the peer comparisons in Chapter 4 shows that UNK has a history of expending less per student than the peer average. Although this gap has narrowed in the last few years, it remains a challenge for the institution. Still, compared to peer institutions and the other institutions in the University of Nebraska system, UNK has relatively low tuition rates. Even if the Board of Regents continues to raise tuition in order to offset reductions in state funding, considering that most state institutions will be in a similar situation, tuition increases that exceed inflation should not affect adversely UNK's enrollment.
Increases in tuition rates, housing, and other fees, however, will have consequences for UNK students. As costs rise faster than average family income, the gap between costs and available family resources will grow larger. With the federal budget deficit at record levels, it is unlikely that Congress will appropriate additional funds for federal grant programs. These factors are likely to force students to assume greater debt in order to obtain a degree.
UNK has had success in increasing funding from outside sources through grants and contracts. By increasing staff and budget support for the Office of Sponsored Programs, UNK has made a commitment to pursue increases in this funding source.
During the last decade, the UNK campus has seen a great deal of renovation and new construction. These new and renovated buildings, along with the increased technological equipment, provide faculty and students with the means to adjust to the demands of the future.
Despite these improvements, there are still serious needs in the physical plant that the institution must address. As discussed in Chapter 4, UNK's Office of Facilities Management's backlog of projects include: $1.4 million for ADA compliance projects, $25.4 million for deferred maintenance, $10.0 million for fire and life safety issues, and $21.0 million for energy conservation projects.