University of Central Missouri: UCM President Roger Best Says Campus in ‘Position of Strength’

0

In his fifth State of the University address since becoming the University of Central Missouri’s 16th president, Roger Best stressed that UCM today is in “great shape,” crediting this status to the hard work of faculty and staff along with factors such as increases in state funding and student enrollment. Best’s presentation took place on Sept. 15 at the Elliott Student Union ballroom.

“Your hard work, your leadership, and your dedication have led us to an incredible place, one in which we have much to celebrate, one in which we can lead from a position of strength, and one that will allow us to take full advantage of the opportunities and conquer and challenges that will come our way,” he said to those in attending in person and watching via the live stream.

Best noted that several initiatives that have taken place over the past several months have set the stage for the positive outlook UCM is currently experiencing, and will benefit the institution. Among these accomplishments was an $11.6 million investment into the university’s physical plant that will help the institution compete for students. Another initiative was the establishment of a new academic structure. This is an effort that was made possible through the leadership of the provost and engagement of college deans and faculty to change the academic structure from 17 schools to 27 academic departments and three schools, effective July 1, 2022.

“The goal of this revised structure is not to say we’re making progress because structures have changed, and it does not involve cost savings,” he said. “It was put in place to better highlight our portfolio of academic programs, to provide room for programmatic innovation, and ultimately to foster and empower success for each of our academic programs.”

Among the new initiatives, Best expressed his appreciation to chairs, program coordinators and deans who have worked with Integrated Marketing and Communications and the contractor RNL to rehabilitate academic program webpages. Nearing completion, the initial project, he said, involved 329 program pages, but that was expanded to include an additional 64 pages, making a total of 393 pages. This initiative is vital to the university’s success in using the website as a recruitment tool for prospective students. As UCM moves forward, IMC will continue to work closely with academic programs to ensure content is accurate and updated.

The president said UCM is benefitting from the $5.4 million increase in our core appropriations that the legislature authorized for Fiscal Year 2023. It is also receiving $19.9 million in appropriations towards a $39.8 million renovation of the Humphreys Building. These items were among the university’s legislative priorities along with the renewal of the non-traditional-aged financial aid program, Fast Track, which was not renewed but improved through removal of the loan provision, Best said.



“Our deep appreciation goes to the Governor’s Office, our local elected General Assembly members and our local and state Chambers of Commerce for their support of increased funding for higher education and specifically for UCM,” he remarked. He also thanked David Pearce, who leads the governmental relations area.

UCM began the fall 2023 semester with a positive enrollment outlook, continuing progress tht was made last year.

“As I reported to you in last year’s State of the University address and during meetings we had in the spring, our enrollment last year increased substantially at a time when most of our peers and competitors saw at best flat enrollment,” Best said. “These increases allowed us to turn a projected deficit in our FY 2022 budget into a realized fiscal plan that required no deficit spending and created a strong starting point for this fiscal year.”

“My appreciation to Vice President Bill Hawley and the Finance and Administration team for their significant work during our heightened fiscal management procedures over the past two and one-half years, and the payoff that this scrutiny and diligence has provided us today,” Best said.

He also commended the Board of Governors for approving a multi-year approach to addressing the severe structural budget and fiscal challenges that came with issues such as the pandemic. The president stressed that although the university did “experience pain, the impact is much less dramatic than it might have been.”


In updating the audience on this year’s enrollment, he said the fall 2022 student headcount is up 10.5 percent (1,107) compared to last fall. UCM’s graduate population increased by more than 45 percent, and it improved first to second year retention from 71.2 percent last fall to 72.2 percent for fall 2022.


“Not surprisingly, and not unexpected, we continue to see a shift in the percentage of graduate students within our population. This semester, approximately 37 percent or our students are graduate students versus 28 percent last fall,” Best said.


“As a result of our forecasted enrollment numbers, particularly at the graduate level, along with increases in state appropriations, we forecasted a strong budget for this year – one that allowed us to include more than $5 million in additional compensation for our faculty and staff,” he said,


This improved revenue situation also provided a mechanism for UCM to absorb most of the increased cost of its health insurance coverage, and will allow the university to make additional investments of approximately $15.2 million in its physical plant during this year alone.


“Thanks to the realization of that forecasted enrollment and a lot of hard work by you,” Best told the faculty and staff, “I can report that today, our fall semester tuition revenue is at 100 percent of the fall semester forecast.”


Moving forward, Best said the university will need to address areas such as the undergraduate population of first-time, full-time students, which is down by 114 students and transfer students, down 55, from a year ago. Measures such as the rehabilitation of the academic webpages, and revisions to the Red and Black Scholarship model are among efforts that will help address these student populations.


Best touched on many other areas during his remarks including an update on the successes of the Alumni Foundation. FY 2022 yielded the greatest Foundation Scholarships distribution in history totaling approximately $1.5 million. Other philanthropic statistics include charitable gifts and pledges of about $13.2 million, and experiencing the largest giving in a single year, approximately $8.7 million in outright alumni and donor gifts.


Best also spoke about the President’s Commission on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) noting that it has developed a statement for syllabi that affirms to every student UCM’s commitment to DEI. The commission also explored how the university might implement hiring practices to promote a diverse set of applicants; worked with the Office of Technology to provide a mechanism for campus members to self-select preferred name and gender identifier; and worked with campus offices to bring in guest speakers who can address topics related to DEI.


In concluding his remarks, Best reiterated the university’s strong position. He added, “Sure we have work to do, and some of that work won’t be easy. But our guiding light should always be the tremendous impact that we have on our students, on this state, and on the world.”

Leave A Reply

Your email address will not be published.