At its meeting today, the Marshall University Board of Governors received the annual information technology security report and the investment earnings report for the year ending June 30.
The board also approved an amended policy for the university’s Employee Dependent Undergraduate Tuition Assistance Program, a benefit that offers dependent children of eligible employees the opportunity to earn a college degree at Marshall at a significantly reduced cost.
Dr. Gayle Ormiston, provost and senior vice president for academic affairs, says official fall enrollment numbers will not be available until October, but preliminary figures show two key indicators seem to be trending slightly upward.
He said that as of yesterday and compared to the same date last year, overall enrollment is up 86 students and new freshman enrollment is up 49 students. He added that the number of students enrolled through the INTO Marshall international recruitment initiative is up 55 students, or nearly 40 percent, over last fall.
Ormiston also said Marshall now has more than 600 students enrolled in distance programs—programs that can be completed entirely online. Because students in these programs have no campus or physical classroom presence and do not participate in campus activities and events, the university offers them a special distance tuition rate in lieu of regular tuition and fees.
The university’s retention rate, or percentage of students who returned to Marshall from last semester, also appears to be up about one percent over this time last year. Ormiston said that equals a five percent retention rate increase over the last two years.
He cautioned that students are continuing to register and the situation remains fluid over the first few weeks of the semester.
Brandi Jacobs-Jones, senior vice president for operations, said that as of Monday, residence hall occupancy was up 175 students over last year. She added that final figures will not be available until early September.
In his remarks, Interim President Gary G. White said the preliminary enrollment figures are in line with the revenue forecast in the university operating budget for the current academic year.
“We are very pleased enrollment seems to be coming in about where we expected it to,” he said. “The next hurdle we face is realizing the $3.4 million we projected in savings and efficiency this year through our Marshall 20/20 initiative.
“If these enrollment numbers hold and we save what we projected through the Marshall 20/20 process this year, we should be able to avoid cutting student services or laying off employees, and provide the raises we budgeted for faculty and staff. If any of the pieces don’t fall into place or if we have a mid-year budget cut from the State, then all bets are off. That’s just the reality of where higher education is right now. We’re pleased to be in good financial condition relative to many institutions due to a lot of hard work by our staff and faculty, but that hard work will continue.”
White also updated the board on more than a dozen recent recruitment and retention initiatives and grant activity, and gave the members an overview of the university’s new website.
Ormiston advised the board of the university’s upcoming periodic evaluation by its regional accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. The university will host a site-visit team from HLC Oct. 12-13. Public comments are being accepted through Sept. 12.
As the last item on the agenda, the board met in executive session to discuss personnel matters related to the university’s presidential search process. No action was taken when the board reconvened into regular session.