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Gibson Delivers 'State Of The University' Address

Aug. 31, 2011
SHSU Media Contact: Julia May

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President Dana Gibson addressed the faculty and staff during the annual "State of the University" meeting on Wednesday.

Sam Houston State University President Dana Gibson recapped some of the past year’s highlights, talked about the impact of legislative cuts, and presented plans for the future during the annual “State of the University” address Wednesday afternoon.

In addition, awards were presented for years of service, and several staff members were recognized for their contributions beyond the scope of their jobs. (See photos here.)

Gibson began her address by mentioning special recognition that SHSU had received, including classification as a community engaged institution by the Carnegie Foundation and being named a “Great College to Work For” by the Chronicle of Higher Education for two consecutive years.

She also congratulated the Student Advising and Mentoring (SAM) Center for receiving the 2011 NACADA Outstanding Institutional Advising Program Certificate of Merit and the Student Money Management Center for being a 2010-2011 NASPA Excellence Award, Bronze Honoree.

Gibson announced two new individual awards — the David Payne Academic Community Engagement Award, which will be presented along with the Excellence in Teaching, Research, and Service Awards in the spring; and the Kudos and Thanks K.A.T. Award, which will be given each month to an SHSU employee, who has exhibited outstanding service to others.

While noting that official figures are not in yet, Gibson said that preliminary figures indicate that enrollment will be up slightly to approximately 17,500 students this fall. She pointed out that enrollment has grown 35 percent over the past 10 years, with a 33 percent increase in undergraduates and a 57 percent increase in graduate students.

She also spoke about growth in two fairly new areas — the nursing program, which admitted 24 students in January 2011 and 35 students this fall; and online learning, which increased in enrollment by 73 percent from fiscal year 2010 to fiscal year 2011. The program now offers 12 master’s degrees, with five on the horizon, and a Bachelor of Science degree in criminal justice, with an undergraduate degree in general studies coming after final approval.

Gibson talked about the recent economic impact study, which indicated that Sam Houston State University is a significant contributor to not only the local Huntsville area, but into the Houston area, as well.

The business volume impact that the university contributes is $149.4 million for both Walker and Montgomery Counties, and construction activities account for an additional $30 million for the Houston metropolitan area.

“These numbers are useful when we in leadership talk about the university with business leaders, community leaders, and legislators,” she said. “It lets them know why it’s good for them to invest in Sam Houston State University.”

Regarding the state budget and the cuts to higher education, Gibson showed the audience a graph of state funding to the educational component of SHSU’s budget over the past ten years.

“We went from about 60 percent in fiscal year 2001 to about 33 percent this year in educational funding from the state,” she said.

The total operational budget, including auxiliaries, went from approximately 45 percent to 22 percent during the same time frame.

“The decline in state funding is a national trend,” she said. “We’re not just seeing it in the state of Texas. But it’s something we have to be aware of in our planning for the future and moving forward.”

In addition to less funding for the university’s budget, the percentage of state funding per student has declined by more than 6 percent over 10 years. Just in the past biennium, the reduction in funds from the state for SHSU has been $10.7 million.

“About one-third of that figure was handled by expenditure cuts, and about two-thirds was handled through the growth in enrollment and increases in tuition,” she said.

Gibson told the audience that even with the increases in tuition, SHSU is still in the medium range of what Texas public universities charge for a full time undergraduate student per semester, and “we are still a good value,” she said.

In planning for the future, Gibson said that a new strategic plan is being developed to update the university’s mission, goals and objectives.

Campus planning includes an agricultural complex to be located at the Gibbs Ranch, a new biology, nursing and allied health building to be located where Academic Building 3 is, and an event center, which will feature a ballroom approximately 40 percent larger than the one currently housed in the Lowman Student Center.

“We anticipate that the new center will be used by groups within the region, much like the Performing Arts Center is,” she said.

She told faculty and staff that she and Provost Jaimie Hebert will be hosting “round table” discussions to address such topics as changing demographics in higher education, the shift in funding source to higher education, customer service, and the dynamics of increasing accountability.

 

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