Texas State University is showing signs of progress in spite of difficult economic times, University President Denise Trauth said Tuesday.
In her annual “State of the University Address” delivered in Strahan Coliseum at the university’s Fall Convocation, Trauth said Texas State has seen a state-mandated annual budget reduction of $17 million due to the state’s budget deficit. She said that would be enough money to hire 174 new faculty members or increase the size of the Registrar’s Office 20 times.
The university’s enrollment growth and efficiency, though, have helped the institution thrive.
“We saw the state budget deficit coming and planned for it. We ‘banked’ our (enrollment) growth, and because of that, we will not be in the hole in the new fiscal year,” said Trauth.
That will mean good news for many university faculty and staff who saw no pay raises last year. Trauth announced there will be a pool for merit raises equivalent to 3 percent of the university payroll available for salary increases beginning in November.
She also emphasized the university’s efficiency, saying, “Texas State can stretch a dollar about as far as it can stretch. We are excellent stewards of the state’s investment in us. The money we get from the State of Texas – our funding per semester credit hour – is 33rd out of the 35 public universities in Texas.”
She also said that Texas State’s expenditures per undergraduate student are lower than the expenditures of 50 peer universities across the nation and that the university has reduced administrative costs from 13.1 percent to 9.3 percent in the past 10 years.
“But remember, even with these low expenses, we have the fifth highest graduation rate among the 35 public institutions of Texas. That’s remarkable,” said Trauth.
Signs of progress are readily apparent on the Texas State campus, Trauth said, as evidenced by the $321 million worth of construction projects currently in various stages of development at the university. Those projects include the Undergraduate Academic Center, the North Campus Housing Complex, the Center for Research and Commercialization, the North Side Complex at Bobcat Stadium, the new performing arts center and the new office complex for the Department of Housing and Residence Life.
The Undergraduate Academic Center will be home to the departments of Political Science, Psychology and Sociology and will be the site of the university’s new PACE (Personalized Academic and Career Exploration) Center. The concept for the PACE Center was developed in conjunction with the university’s reaffirmation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) that took place last year.
Trauth called the SACS reaffirmation “a major accomplishment of the last academic year” and said, “PACE will bring together freshman advising, career planning and mentoring into one place. Here we can help our students match their career interests with their abilities and guide them in finding out what it takes to achieve the results they want. This will be a terrific service to our students and should help us with retention.”
Trauth said the increased research funding at Texas State is helping the university make “good progress on our goal of moving into the tier of the state’s Emerging Research Universities. This tier includes Texas Tech, North Texas, Houston, UT-Arlington, UT-San Antonio, UT-El Paso and UT-Dallas.”
When compared to those universities, Trauth said, Texas State is the third largest, has the fourth-highest freshman retention rate and the third highest six-year graduation rate.
Trauth said Texas State set a new enrollment record last year and will this fall as well. She said the student body of Texas State continues to be more representative of Texas demographics.
“Thirty-five percent of our student body was ethnic minority last year and we expect that to be about the same this fall. We reached our goal of becoming a Hispanic Serving Institution – an HSI – last fall, two years ahead of our goal. Only four of the 10 largest universities in Texas are currently HSIs, and Texas State is the largest one of those,” said Trauth.
Trauth said she anticipates an enrollment of approximately 34,000 students this fall and that 95 percent of the 4,600 freshmen will live in university residence halls.
“Ninety-five percent is an important number because it tells us that increasingly young people come to us wanting the whole rich residential experience that is uniquely Texas State,” she said.
Trauth encouraged faculty and staff to participate in the Family Campaign portion of the university’s Pride in Action capital campaign, which will publicly launch in October. Family Campaign donations will support scholarships for Texas State students.
Tuesday’s speech was Trauth’s 10th Fall Convocation speech and she harkened back to her first.
“What I didn’t know then – and couldn’t know – was what the people and the campus culture are like. My ideal of a place to be president would be where ‘the people who are the university sincerely care about the university, a place where the people share a vision for the institution.’ To my delight, I found that place. It was apparent to me then – as it is now – that the people who are the university love it, they like one another and they are willing and eager to work together to make it ‘one of the preeminent higher education institutions in the nation.’ Because of this, I am sure that our Family Campaign will be a success,” said Trauth.
Other major initiatives highlighted by Trauth in her speech included the move of Texas State athletics to the Western Athletic Conference and the Football Bowl Subdivision, the further internationalization of the Texas State campus and the implementation of the Banner student information system to further enhance modernization of core business systems on campus.
— MARK HENDRICKS/TEXAS STATE NEWS SERVICE