University Faculty and Administrative Staff Assembly

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Texas A&M International University Faculty and Administrative Staff Assembly  State of the University
August 25, 2006


Texas A&M International University finds itself at the beginning of a new era. The initial build-out — programs and buildings — has been completed, and our campus stands as one of the most beautiful and well-constructed in the State. Sustained growth, necessary to fulfill our mission, mandates continued expansion of both buildings and programs. That growth must now be carefully targeted to answer the needs and opportunities unique to this region.

Highlights of 2005-2006:

1. A thorough remaking of the University to satisfy SACS criteria for re-affirmation, including a fully online assessment program. We were fully accredited without recommendations or additional demands. The language of goals, strategies, outcomes, and means of assessment now permeate all our deliberations.

2. Began MS in biology, psychology, and mathematics.

3. Expanded greatly the use of technology in our teaching. In the Spring of 2004, we had 9 fully online courses, with 128 students enrolled; 80 courses using some web-delivered support with 1337 students enrolled. In the Spring of 2006, we count 32 fully online courses with 558 students enrolled, 197 web-supported courses with 2839 students enrolled. And these numbers will continue to grow.

4. Created 27 classrooms with “smart podiums,” a direct result of faculty requests in my first meeting with new faculty exactly one year ago today.

5. Began MS in Education Administration transmitted via TTVN from TAMIU to Crystal City and Pearsall.

6. Secured funding to renovate the entire second floor of Dr. Billy F. Cowart Hall, creating a new space for Academic Support Services, Testing Services, and the Writing Center.

7. Completed first year of operation of the Lamar Bruni Vergara Science Center’s Planetarium with 36,000 children and adults attending shows.

8. Began online MS in Criminal Justice.

9. Began implementation of conversion from SIS to Banner throughout the University. This year will see online communication with faculty for class rosters and reporting of grades.

10. Initiated numerous projects in the Sue and Radcliffe Killam Library: regional archive, King Romance Seminar Room, Associate Director of Library Outreach, expansion for stack space on the third floor, addition of a Starbucks Coffee bar on the first floor.

11. Began our TAMIU chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.

12. Partnered with Webb County and Webb County Heritage Foundation to plan programs for Casa Ortiz in downtown Laredo on the river. Kati Pletsch de García and the Department of Language and Literature has been especially helpful working on this. We hope to have the deal closed and be in Casa Ortiz by the end of the Fall semester.

13. Began partnership with TEES to establish at TAMIU a Sustainable Campus Strategic Initiative, the first in The Texas A&M University System.

14. Planned and established, together with the Laredo Independent School District (and it is beginning as we speak), Early College High School on this campus.

15. Become a member of NCAA, Division II this Fall, and establish baseball, continuing in discussion with the private sector and the City of Laredo to build a major ball facility on the east side of campus.

Goals and objectives: FY 2006-2007

1. Continue present strategies for increasing enrollment at least 5%.

2. Move successfully through another legislative session. Directions are to plan next year’s budget with a 10% cut in from this year’s totals. An obvious goal for all higher education is to maintain present funding levels.

3. Develop this Fall the Program of Requirements for the Student Success Building, completion of the fine arts auditorium, and the infrastructure for the south side of the campus.

4. Design and begin implementation of an intranet to allow separation of public and internal web sites and communication.

5. Complete and implement compensation study for staff.

6. Develop further and enhance the following programs:

PhD in International Business
BA in Art (look at moving to a BFA)
MS in Psychology
MS in School Counseling
Add faculty for Alternative Certification Process
Add two faculty positions as per SACS requirements for the QEP.

7. Targeted programs to develop:

BA and MS in Communication Disorders
BS and MS in Systems Engineering
BS in Dietetics (with the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, Laredo campus)
PhD in Criminal Justice

8. Finalize collaboration with UTSA to establish on campus, together with Laredo Development Foundation, a Small Business Development Center.

9. Expand International Programs by enhancing targeted agreements now in place, and establishing additional agreements as we are able.

10. Complete for occupancy in 2007 the new Kinesiology-Convocation Building.

11. Plan Master’s of Art in Interdisciplinary Studies with a concentration in International Business.

12. Plan with the Laredo Independent School District housing for the 200 Early College High School Students who will be living in separate campus housing by the Fall of 2009.

13. Receive the Henry Ford Foundation representatives who will be here on September 20 to explore the possibility of establishing on campus a Henry Ford Academy, to be programmatically and fiscally joined to Early College High School and Senator Zaffirini’s created, but not funded Texas Academy for International Studies.

14. Complete smooth transition to NCAA-Division II.

Enrollment:

First our most significant benchmark: enrollment.
Between the Fall of 2001 and 2005, our Semester Credit Hours (SCH) grew 34%, our headcount 27%. In the Fall of 2005, for reasons still heavily debated in many places, enrollment in all South Texas universities fell, including at Laredo Community College.

Our own enrollment grew slightly in the Fall of 2005, a gain of .68%. What is remarkable is that we did not lose students in this strange step backward throughout the region. Then in the Spring of 2006, we posted an increase of 4.24%.

In the summer sessions, again for reasons we still are struggling to identify, the growth was phenomenal: in SS I, we were 16.4% over last year, in SS II 4.2%. And the percentage growth of SCH consistently outpaces increases in headcount. This is exactly right. Students increasingly take more courses.

Our goal is the state’s urging to B-On-Time, or graduate our students in four years. Our Student Success team, the group that brings in the students whose presence funds this institution, is second to none.

In spite of these impressive gains, at or near the top of all university growth in Texas, we continue to see a large population of Laredo youth not enrolled in higher education. Our greatest challenge is to reach this yet unserved population. And the problem is larger than Laredo.

New Jersey boasts the largest percentage of high school graduates who continue into college: 75% In the nation, 64% of high school graduates continue into college; in Texas, that number is 48%. And Laredo is at or below the Texas average.

We should reach 8,000-10,000 students within 10 years. The population to be served is surely here. What we do not know is how the State of Texas and our federal government will respond to the educational needs of needy students. Will Texas Grant be renewed and modified, but funded? The drop-off in that program is what has slowed down our vertiginous growth of the early part of this decade.

In the gradual transition to a more traditional campus, we are beginning to fill our residential facilities. The first year open, the Residential Learning Center admitted approximately 100 students. Last year, that number grew to approximately 200. This year we are well over 300, and University Village is full with a waiting list.

Engineering:

The most significant change in our academic program in the next five years will be the gradual development of engineering.

This summer, Mr. Bartell Zachry, CEO of Zachry Construction, brought representatives of the College of Engineering to Laredo to meet with us and to discuss how we might create a smooth pipeline for prospective engineers to enroll here, transfer without interruption to College Station.

This Fall we will begin an aggressive campaign to make aspiring Laredo engineers aware of this possibility. Also, the School of Architecture in College Station came to begin discussion of how to create a seamless career path for aspiring Laredo architects. This year we will begin development of Systems Engineering with that program to begin here in the Fall of 2007.

Budget:

We are now in the process of finalizing a compensation study for all staff. Compensation studies are to determine the best fit for each classified position, and then the best entry, middle, and upper ranges of salary for each position.

Equity adjustments, now projected for approximately 46% of the classified and administrative staff will be reflected in your check at the end of October. The total pool of money to implement the recommendations of the study is $516,814.

Of this total, $214,355 came from the merit pool for administration and staff, $180,000 was budgeted this year for equity increases, and the addition $112,000 will come from an approximately 3% transfer from M&O allocation to the salary pool. Each Vice President will decide how to handle this transfer in his or her area. While this reallocation does not present an ideal scenario, it is also true that our M&O allocations are, when compared with other universities in the A&M System, relatively generous ones.

Merit increases are to go into effect on September 1, to be reflected in your check at the end of September. The merit increases, 2.5% of our total salaries for all employees, created a
pool of just over $500,000.

The compensation study we commissioned was strictly for administrative and staff. Our faculty searches are national ones, and the CUPA figures of average salaries for all institutions at all levels are available to deans and chairs. These are the guidelines they follow when setting salaries. Staff positions are more often regional recruits, and hence the need to commission a study to provide us regional benchmarks.

In addition, staff positions for this and every institution of higher learning are idiosyncratic and site-specific. It is very hard to look at national lists of staff compensation and match those positions to ours. This complexity is of course not true of faculty positions.

We have as an institution put the vast majority of our resources, both existing and new, into hiring and retaining faculty to teach the fast-growing student body. Between September, 2002 and September, 2006 we have added at total of 31 new faculty positions, 33 new administrative and staff positions, 8 new positions in athletics. The total investment in new faculty for these 31 positions was $1.75 million. The investment for 33 administration and staff positions was $870,000. The investment for the 8 new athletic positions was $308,000.

This year, beginning in September, we will add 8 new faculty positions, 5 new administrative and staff positions. Total investment in new faculty positions: $370,500. Total investment in new administrative and staff positions: $150,600.

Finally, the summary figures. In FY 2007, which we now begin, 256 administrative and staff positions are funded at $8.5 million; 195 faculty positions are funded at $11.7 million.

How have we funded new positions in times of flat budgets? Our growth continues to fund our expansion, including merit pools each year for salary increases.

Two areas of budget swell remain serious ones to consider. The first, the cost of building and operation our residential community, seems to be under control thanks to aggressive recruitment. The first year we housed 100 students, the second 200, and this year we will be at approximately 350 students. Capacity is 400, so we will soon need to begin to think about additional housing. Remember: Housing cannot be funded with state appropriations.

The second area of budget swell will continue to challenge us. As you know from your own bills at home, utility costs remain on the rise. In the 2004-2005 budget year, we set aside $800,000; last year $1.6 million, and we are hoping to get by with $2.2 million for the coming year.

Ray M. Keck III

President
Professor of Spanish
Texas A&M International University

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