By Naidelly Coelho
The Board of Trustees discussed the University’s strategic enrollment plan, President Nancy Niemi’s evaluation, and FY 25 budget during the Nov. 15 meeting.
During the Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management Committee Report, Trustee Nancy Budwig provided updates on enrollment and retention rates.
She said undergraduate enrollment has dropped 5% and graduate enrollment has risen 6% compared to AY 2022. The University is 6% ahead in new student enrollment compared to last year.
The University has a decrease of 2% in overall enrollment compared to last year, Budwig said.
The University’s retention rate is 72%, which is 1% ahead of 2022, she added.
She said because of the delay of FAFSA forms this year, the University might see some change in those numbers.
“So getting out the financial award letters - which the aim is to do it earlier and earlier - will be delayed,” Budwig said.
Dean of Strategic Enrollment Management Iris Godes said the FAFSA form will open on Dec. 31, which will delay the sending out of award letters until early March.
“I was talking about this with my staff today. There's a sort of national May 1 decision day to submit your deposit. Well, if we can't get your award out to you until April, are you ready to make a decision? So we're going to have to see how that goes. We're going to be watching closely,” Godes said.
Godes said FSU received $22 million from the MASSGrant Plus Expansion for financial aid available for students.
This expansion will give students more financial aid who are eligible for the Pell Grant more money. Students who are part time and eligible for Pell Grant will also receive financial aid, she said.
In addition to Pell Grant receivers, families who have an adjusted gross income of $100,000 can also be eligible for the MASSGrant Plus expansion, Godes said.
“It is not helping us with recruitment, but hopefully, with retention,” she said.
Godes said they have hired a consultant to “create some new efficiencies, and do things more automated than we have in the past.”
Executive Vice President Dale Hamel said for the MASSGrant Plus expansion, the state has only allocated $62 million of the $84 million to universities and there is still $22 million to be allocated.
“I hate to see us having to package three times,” said Hamel, referring to financial aid award letters, but he hopes the University can get as much as they can.
Linda Campanella from SOS Consulting was present in the meeting and explained the next steps of strategic planning for the next five years.
She said the new process the University is pursuing is very important as it will give opportunities for engagement to all constituents of the University.
Campanella said not everything in the University has to change to have a successful institution, but there are areas in which it can be rebuilt or reformed in strategic ways.
A survey conducted among the Trustees shows diversity, small classes, and relationships between faculty and students were common responses on areas of leverage, she said.
Five trustees and 10 senior executives responded to the survey.
However, the survey shows the trust between students and police on campus and alumni engagement are strong areas for improvement, she added.
Campanella said the survey demonstrated areas of priority, including higher retention rate, student success, reputation, and faculty, and staff reflecting FSU’s diverse student population.
She said there is a preliminary timeline for when the strategic plan will be launched. From now until the end of the year, the team will keep gathering data, and by January, there will be a “vision” of how the University should look five years from now.
During the President’s Report, Nancy Niemi said “revenue streams” are changing, especially for FY 25.
She said the University has been sitting on revenues from pandemic funding and she hopes the University can start looking into obtaining revenue from different sources, including federal grants and corporate sponsorships.
“So as we look at our fiscal health going forward, we're not only depending on our state appropriations and revenues, but there's lots of possibilities through hard work,” Niemi said.
During the Chair’s Report, Beth Casavant said there will be completion of a presidential evaluation, and she hopes for trustee support.
There are three parts to the presidential evaluation: financial, equity, and overall student success, Casavant added.
She said Vice Chair Anthony Hubbard has agreed to write the financial portion of it and encourages other trustees to join the committee.
“Having participated in a presidential evaluation, I know that it is work, but it isn't the same kind of work as, let's say, a presidential search committee, for example. It's mostly done on your own writing,” she said.
In his Diversity, Inclusion, and Community Engagement Report, Vice President Jeffrey Coleman said received a $5,000 grant from the Sudbury Foundation for racial and equity initiatives to support the creation of artistic murals around campus that will serve as visual Native American land acknowledgments for the campus.
He said DICE is also hosting weekly community office hours by the campus ministers, including an Evangelical chaplain, a Jewish chaplain, a Catholic chaplain, and “now a Muslim representative who has joined us.”
During the Development and Alumni Relations Report, Vice President Eric Gustafson provided updates on alumni-related events that happened around campus in the last couple of weeks.
He emphasized the importance of academic department-related alumni events.
During the Student Experience Committee Report, Claire Ramsbottom said the police department should be fully staffed soon as they only need one more officer.
She said it’s important for students to trust the University police, after many changes in that department in the last couple of years.
Ramsbottom shared new Chief of Police Joseph Cecchi's goals and also discussed the types of calls the police typically receive, such as parking enforcement, building openings, building security, direct patrols, and safety checks.
She said students want more blue emergency boxes and cameras in residence halls.
Ramsbottom said she can’t imagine students asking for more cameras in residence halls because when she went to college, it would have been considered an “invasion of privacy.”
“It is a shift in the mindset and the feeling of students and what they're expecting,” she said.
During the Administration, Finance, and Technology Committee Report, Vice Chair Anthony Hubbard said the committee had a meeting on Oct. 31 to review the financial trends for the University over a 10-year period.
He said the committee has talked with the Strategic Planning Committee to understand their investments and what they would need to be supported.
Hubbard said Higher Education Emergency Relief Funding has been spent, so looking into FY 24, “there was a budget approved that included a $1.9 million deficit. So reserve use for operations will be reduced for a number of reasons - we'll address those in January.”
During the Student Trustee Report, Ryan Mikelis thanked administrators for their presence at the Town Hall meeting, previously administrators’ forum, on Nov. 14.
[ Editor’s Note: See “Athletic equipment theft, residence hall accessibility addressed at ‘Town Hall’” ]
“It really is integral to letting students know that their concerns are heard,” he said.
Mikelis said SGA held a retreat for senators at which they reviewed their constitution, roles of eBoard members and senators, and funding.
Instagram is used by many students and Mikelis emphasized some Instagram pages, including @fsunewrams, @K9_ramsey-fsu, and @fsu_seals.
K-9 Campus Police dog Ramsey was introduced to the trustees by Casavant.
Corporal Shawn Deleskey, who is Ramsey’s handler, said the dog will be utilized in mental health calls. Ramsey has 12 more weeks left of training.
After Worcester State’s gun violence incident, Ramsey and Deleskey went there to support students, staff, and faculty, he said.
The Student-in-the-Spotlight was Rebecca Rivera, a child and family studies major. She was introduced by Kelly Kolodny, an education professor.
Rivera is a first-generation student and a bilingual assistant teacher at the early childhood centers on campus. She has maintained a 3.96 GPA throughout her years at FSU.
Rivera said, “Being bilingual has helped me tremendously in connecting with families that I otherwise would not have been able to. It helped me open new opportunities such as translating information to families, helping children express their ideas during the school day, and being able to be a support system for these families and their children.”
She said she has helped many institutions to raise money to help others in need.
“I was able to raise over $1,000 for my late history teacher who passed away from cancer shortly after having her first child. Giving has always been a passion of mine,” Rivera said.
She was inducted into multiple honor societies and said she is thankful for all the opportunities FSU has provided her with the guidance of her professors.
“While my time at FSU will be coming to a close in May, I will forever hold on to learning from the professors I've met and the countless children I have been lucky enough to work with and that have left an imprint on me close to my heart. I have no doubt that this was the right choice for me for my undergraduate degree,” she said.