C. Pat Taylor guides SBU toward growth as higher education institutions lose students and face more governmental regulations.
2016 Projection “I think the biggest challenge all of us will face in the next year will be maintaining enrollment growth.”
SBJ: What government regulations will higher education institutions face in 2016?
C. Pat Taylor: More mandates for us to have to report things. The state is certainly going to be doing teacher education requirements. When I first started as president here, in what we now call the institutional effectiveness office, we had a half-time person. That was 19 years ago. Right now, we have two full-time people and a graduate assistant working there and then some student workers. That office does all of our statistical reporting.
We should be held accountable. What happens, there’s so many bad players out there in our industry that do things in a shoddy way. That causes more scrutiny for all of us. Government regulations come because of the bad players, and we have to do the same reporting that they do. That just requires more personnel, more man-hours, and all that’s costly.
SBJ: Do you have your eye on any legislation in 2016?
Taylor: One of the big things that a lot of us are concerned about right now is the conceal-carry proposal in the state of Missouri. Right now, most of us have pretty strict policies that we don’t allow any kinds of weapons on our campus. I think we have more insulation because we’re a private school, so we’re private property. We can deny that. I don’t think the state schools can. Every time a shooting occurs, that makes us all more and more nervous. Security is becoming a bigger and bigger issue.
SBJ: What is SBU’s current enrollment?
Taylor: Our total enrollment this fall was 3,707. Last year was 3,696. We went up 11 students. This day and age, that’s pretty doggone good. On the Bolivar campus, we went down some. We dropped from 1,503 to 1,454. That’s obviously a concern for us. We need to be at 1,500 on this campus.
SBJ: What are you doing to grow enrollment?
Taylor: We’ve got three initiatives to change that. No. 1, we’re beefing up our recruiting for transfer students. We’d like to increase the number by about a third. Second thing is we signed a contract with AmeriStudy, an international recruiting firm. There’s a lot of international students out there who are qualified. We’ve never really recruited internationally. No. 3 is initiating this program – we’re starting a Bachelor of Science nursing program on this campus. We have a very large nursing program at the Springfield campus, and that program is growing exponentially. We know every year we lose students at the Bolivar campus because we don’t have a traditional Bachelor of Arts program in nursing. To meet those enrollment challenges, you’ve got to be creative, you have to be renewing stuff all the time, you need to keep yourself current and figure out what kids want and what the demands are, and then go after them.
SBJ: What’s causing enrollment challenges?
Taylor: Just fewer kids. Right now, what affects this year is the birth rate of 1998. Those numbers will affect this coming fall. There won’t be more students this year. That number really stays pretty flat until 2010, and that’s the year it really bottoms out. Until 2028, we’re going to have challenges.
SBJ: Will fundraising increase in 2016?
Taylor: Almost all our projects we raise the money for. We don’t use student tuition money for building projects. We try to receive about $6 million a year. We work hard at fundraising all the time. I don’t think 2016 is going to be any different than what it’s been.
We’ve got a great alumni base. We’ve got many friends of the university that are not SBU graduates that appreciate what we do. Hopefully, that won’t change.
SBJ: Will SBU’s tuition go up?
Taylor: It’s going up less than 3 percent. We try to look at what our financial needs will be and then what the market will bear. We always want to be fair to our students. We struggle with that. Things go up. Electricity goes up. Faculty expect to get salary increases and deserve them.
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