State of the Nebraska State College System Address to Wayne State College
NSCS Chancellor Stan Carpenter
Nov. 8, 2007
I’m very happy to be here today to deliver the second annual State of the System Address. It’s an exciting time to be a part of the Nebraska State College System! We are providing outstanding teaching and learning opportunities; our campus facilities are undergoing much need improvements; and we are partnering even more with businesses and our colleagues in K-12 and higher education.
Most importantly, our enrollments are growing and we continue to educate students and provide them with opportunities that not only better their lives, but the lives of their families. We know that around 70 percent of our students are the first in their family to attend college. They graduate well-prepared for the workforce and become leaders in their communities. Thus, they begin a new family tradition that incorporates higher education. We also hope that due to their success, they assist others in finding their way to a college education – and preferably to one of our state colleges.
Last fall more than 8,300 students enrolled at Chadron, Peru and Wayne State Colleges. This fall 8,500 students enrolled. This reflects a nearly 2.5 percent increase. Here at Wayne State, you had an enrollment increase this fall of 3.5 percent in headcount and FTE. There was also a significant 8 percent increase in your freshmen class and nearly 6 percent in graduate students. Your hard work is paying off. More students are choosing to attend our colleges and more are becoming success stories that lead to graduation. This speaks volumes and today, more and more people are hearing our message.
We, however, can never sit back and rest on our laurels. Higher education is ever-changing and just when you’ve found a boat that floats, there is a change in the current. Or perhaps the Commissioner of Education Doug Christensen (who serves on the NSCS Board of Trustees) said it best when he stated, “When dealing with paradigms, shift happens.”
In higher education, there will always be new challenges, so it is important that within the Nebraska State College System and specifically here at Wayne State College, we stay ahead of the shift … and particularly make sure that it does not “hit the fan!”
This year we have new leadership at the helm of the Nebraska State College System Board of Trustees. Bill Roskens from Omaha, who has served on the board since 2003 and chaired the Enrollment and Marketing Committee since its inception in 2004, is now the Chair of the Board of Trustees. Bill has brought many strategic ideas to the table during his time on the board. A creative and proactive thinker, Bill understands that to be strong systemically, we need to build on our successes and continue to work to get this message heard.
We know the Appropriations Committee, chaired by Senator Lavon Heidemann of Elk Creek, listened to our message, as we fared very well this Legislative session. We received a 5.49 percent increase this year and a 5.3 percent increase for next year. This will go a long way toward covering our core needs for the colleges, such as health insurance and collective bargaining agreements. I want to publicly thank the Appropriations Committee for its hard work and Governor Dave Heineman for approving our funds. But as is always the case, there were additional core needs that had to be met in order to continue to serve our students in the best manner possible. Together, the board, System Office and presidents had to balance the needs of offering the high quality education our students deserve and expect against our fixed expenses. With that in mind, it was necessary to increase tuition by $7.50 per credit hour. That translates to an additional cost of $112.50 for students taking 15 hours.
South Sioux City College Center
Also during the Legislative session, Senator Pat Engel and Speaker Mike Flood were instrumental in assisting us with promoting the need for the new South Sioux City College Center. The Governor also approved the joint facility between Wayne State and Northeast Community College. This facility will help provide extensive educational and cultural benefits to students in the Siouxland area. As you may know, the counties in that area have the fastest growing populations in the state, yet the area is currently underserved by the higher education community. This project is truly an example of how colleges – our colleges and the community colleges – can work together for the benefit of the state. Receiving this funding after many meetings with Northeast representatives and many visits to the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education was a huge accomplishment for Wayne State and the system.
Today you can see the rewards of LB 605 on campus. LB 605 is a joint bonding effort between the NSCS and the state. The Wayne State projects include the Campus Services Building, Memorial Stadium and Rice Auditorium. We will have nearly $9 million worth of construction at Wayne State and the state will pay a little more than half of the costs.
The 309 Task Force, which provides funding for building upkeep, has been very good to us as well. Last year, the task force invested $2.7 million in system projects. At Wayne that included upgrades, repairs or renovations in Benthack and Connell Halls, and the Brandenburg Education, Peterson Fine Arts, Hahn Administration, Humanities and Maintenance buildings, and Rice Auditorium.
Maintaining and increasing enrollments across the system is integral to our success and the success of rural Nebraska. A new System Optimal Enrollment Capacity Model was recently developed with the assistance of representatives at each of the college. This model allows us to look at the capacities of the colleges using seven factors, including resident hall and parking capacities to classroom and lab space utilization. The first model was presented at the June Board meeting and will be completed annually. The information will assist us in building support for future funding requests with the Legislature and for working with each of the colleges to reach their respective optimal enrollments.
Enterprise Resource Plan (ERP)
As you know, the now infamous Student Information System that is currently used at the colleges will no longer be supported by the provider after the year 2011. Consequently, we now have the opportunity to find a new enterprise resource plan or ERP as we fondly call it. A Request for Proposals went out this summer and many of you just spent six fun-filled days in North Platte listening to presentations by the top three vendors who can provide a single entry, user-friendly program. Know that the Board and I appreciate the efforts of all of you involved. Though major changes like this are never fun, the hope – as always - is to acquire an affordable system that will make the transition as “painless” and as easy as possible.
One of most important resources though is our own people, those of you who truly make the colleges what they are. For you, our personnel, we have added another benefit.
Best Care Employee Assistance Program
As a system, we went through the bidding process and selected Best Care Employee Assistance Program to provide a new benefit for all full-time employees. As you know, the program began July 1 and provides all personnel who are dealing with difficulties access to professional counselors for assistance. It is designed to enhance the lives of our personnel who are dealing with difficulties by improving overall wellness, thus increasing effectiveness at work.
Because we feel we have the best faculty anywhere, the Board and I thought it was important to provide an opportunity for our faculty to learn from each other. The Faculty College was revived this May after a long hiatus – some estimate around 20 years. The event brought faculty members from Chadron, Peru and Wayne State Colleges together to share best practices in teaching and learning here at Wayne State. By all accounts – through evaluations and anecdotally with those who attended – the event was a great success and we look forward to even more faculty taking part in this event next year at Peru State. These discussions lead to better teaching and learning for our students.
And speaking of our students, we are constantly looking for ways to remove obstacles that may prevent students from enrolling or from earning their degrees.
System Masters Degree
Last year, we began offering the first-ever System-wide Master of Science Degree in Organizational Management. This program is unique because students can take the courses online and enroll for courses at any or each of our colleges while earning this degree. Today, more than 100 students are enrolled in the 36-hour cooperative online degree program.
Last summer, you may recall that Governor Heineman publicly recognized the new Nebraska State College System-Nebraska Community College Joint Enrollment Program. This unique program promotes seamless access and transfer opportunities for students by means of cooperating endeavors between our colleges and the Nebraska Community Colleges. We have always worked closely with the community colleges, but this program allows students to have more flexibility when earning their degrees and is meant to provide ease of transfer and the flexibility this affords. Our colleges have been working together since that time to make sure that joint admissions between our own three colleges is more seamless as well. This includes the development of a new online joint enrollment application which will allow students to apply online and notify key individuals of their course choices with the single push of a button.
New System Personnel
This summer was a time for change at the System Office. With the retirement of Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs and General Counsel Larry Schultz, who had been a part of the system for more than 20 years, came the addition of two new personnel.
Korinne Tande joined our office in July after working at Peru State College since 2000. Korinne is the vice chancellor for academic and student affairs and provides dynamic leadership while working collaboratively with the college Vice Presidents for Academic Affairs and Student Services.
Also new to our office is Kristin Petersen, who joined us in August after working as legal counsel at the Nebraska Department of Education since 1995. Kristin is general counsel and vice chancellor for employee relations. She is in charge of legal and employee relations and serves as the NSCS’s chief spokesperson during collective bargaining.
Korinne and Kristin have strong backgrounds in their areas, making the transition – and the assistance and guidance provided to each of the colleges – as seamless as possible.
Another issue you have been hearing about lately is accountability. Stakeholders at all levels are demanding more accountability from the higher education community. We have heard this on topics such as the Spellings Commission report on Higher Education released this year; the recent focus on student lending practices in financial aid; increased attention on accreditation processes; changing accounting and auditing standards; and certainly in discussions with our own Board, Governor and Legislature.
We, in the Nebraska State College System and here at Wayne State College, pride ourselves in being as transparent as possible in what we do. We must continue to focus our attention on ethical behavior and appropriate business practices. Internal controls must continue to be reviewed and refined. We must all be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us.
Strength of System
Last year I talked to you about the newfound strength of our system, meaning the strength of each of the three colleges, the Nebraska State College System Board of Trustees and the System Office – as a whole. As you can see from our list of system efforts, there are many benefits to working together as a system – especially as a small system. We can get better bids working together on large projects such as replacing the Student Information System. We can also issue bonds for facilities systemically to get a better rate and provide cost savings for the colleges. However, most importantly, each president and each college has input in the decisions made at the system level and as a system we can respond quickly to new situations as they arise.
Let me also say though that just because we are stronger systemically today than we were in the past, this does not mean that the colleges lose their autonomy. Our system is only as strong as our weakest link, therefore, it is imperative that each college remains strong and continues to be the best it can be. It is a fine line to walk, but we want each college to be as autonomous as possible while working within the policies and parameters set by the Board.
Wayne State College has long been meeting the needs of students in the region as a teaching/learning institution. Wayne’s success is due to the outstanding faculty and dedicated staff who enjoy what they do and spend countless hours making sure that students are priority one. Please know that all of your extra time and effort is appreciated and this kind of selflessness is what makes our colleges and our system distinctive. It is because of you and your efforts that students continue to come to this wonderful institution. It is also what makes me proud to be at the helm of this great system.