BOONE — Appalachian State University administrators said last week that the institution might not have to increase its admission rate as much as initially thought to meet its 20,000-student enrollment goal by fall 2020, due to an increase in applications.
The university announced the goal in early September. At a Nov. 11 Faculty Senate meeting, multiple faculty members expressed concerns about negative impacts to the university’s reputation if there was a need to increase the admission rate to reach that goal. The senate was told that the percentage of applicants admitted could rise from the current 77 percent to as high as 90 percent to meet the 20,000 goal.
The topic was discussed again during several Appalachian State Board of Trustees committee meetings on Nov. 22 and in Chancellor Sheri Everts’ remarks to the full board that afternoon.
According to Everts, during the past five years App State’s enrollment growth has ranged from as low as -0.5 percent to as high as 2.8 percent — with an average of about 1.4 percent.
She said meeting next year’s goal would be a 3.7 percent increase from the current year, with an overall six-year average of 1.75 percent. She said these projections are consistent with the university’s “slow and steady approach.” Everts also added that while university grew at just under 1 percent last year, which was under its target.
During the trustees Academic Affairs Committee meeting, Provost Darrell Kruger said that of the 20,000 goal, 18,240 of the students are projected to be on campus while 1,760 would be at satellite locations or online. Everts said that nearly 60 percent of the projected increase in students will be online or at satellite locations.
Kruger added that university admissions would be looking to go “wider, not deeper” into the applicant pool. The quality of students being admitted into App State was a concern voiced at the Nov. 11 Faculty Senate meeting. The concern arose from a report completed by the group’s campus planning committee after it consulted administrators.
Based on information the committee was told by administrators, the report stated that App State would likely have to select more students from academic bands that have not been admitted before. Cindy Barr, associate vice chancellor for enrollment management at App State, stated during the Academic Affairs Committee meeting that the Faculty Senate report was based on information formulated in October. She said that data presented about the possible 90 percent admission rate and potential to pull from other academic bands was based on potential scenarios before administrators had a “clear picture.” She said the university has had an increase in applications, and that some of the possibilities that were mentioned are no longer concerns.
In response to Barr, Faculty Senate Chair Michael Behrent said the report went through several versions as administrators would send subsequent emails “saying they’d like to rewrite what was said.” Behrent again reiterated concerns from faculty about the quality and reputation of the institution with additional growth.
The Faculty Senate passed a resolution during its November meeting requesting that Everts appear at the December meeting to address concerns, as the information from administrators “does not fully clarify how the goal is necessary or justifiable,” the report states.
On Nov. 22, Everts explained that Gov. Roy Cooper signed into law one of the highest educational attainment targets in the nation — which was to equip 2 million additional North Carolinian adults (ages 25-44) with a high-quality postsecondary degree or credential by 2030. She said the legislation codified an ambitious goal of myFutureNC, a statewide nonprofit organization focused on educational attainment for which she chaired the post-secondary subcommittee at the request of then-UNC System President Margaret Spellings.
Everts added that at a UNC Board of Governors meeting the week prior, University of North Carolina system interim President William Roper addressed the UNC system’s priority to be proactive in the face of demographic trends. The trends indicate a decline in enrollment may be in the future for UNC system institutions, she said.
“I was encouraged by his commitment to also ensure our state can attract and retain faculty and staff,” Everts said. “Specifically, he indicated an upcoming analysis of faculty salaries, a revision of the guidelines for utilizing the Faculty Recruitment and Retention fund and an assessment of compensation for SHRA employees.”
Scott Lampe, chairman of the trustees’ Business Affairs Committee, said he found the growth issue to be important. He said he had not been around an organization that wasn’t either growing or shrinking, and was more worried about deflation than inflation.
“We need to be smart stewards of good growth that is balanced and reasonable because otherwise we’re shrinking,” Lampe said. “That’s bad for hiring new faculty; that’s bad for getting kids to come here.”
Lampe provided the example of an institution in the eastern part of the state that he said is struggling with enrollment challenges. He said that there would likely be fewer people employed at that university in the future due to the decline in student population.
Additionally, Lampe said the university must grow in a way in which the local area isn’t overrun with traffic and parking is impossible to find.
“All of this is about balance,” Lampe said.