Like the economy, the state of the University is improving through cautious growth.
The annual State of the University presentation took place Thursday, Jan. 26, in the Malcolm Field Auditorium. President Eric Gilbertson said that the number of students enrolled in 2011-2012 is approximately 10,360 students, a .16 percent increase from 2010-2011.
Also increasing were credit hours that were taught in the school year. The increase was nearly 2.35 percent, amounting to 118,800.
“I can report to you that the ‘state’ of our University is healthy, but fragile,” Gilbertson said. “These precious institutions, universities, are forever fragile.”
Gilbertson said graduate level enrollments have decreased in the college of education by nearly 13 percent from last winter.
Gilbertson said the weak job market for new K-12 teachers and changes in state teacher certification and re-certification have had a significant impact.
“What had been a legally-mandated requirement that teachers earn graduate credits in order to maintain their professional licensure has now been all but eliminated,” he said.
Gilbertson said the University is re-thinking its role in graduate professional education to consider teacher preparation and class size.
“Our colleagues in the college of education are at work on these important matters, as this University’s role in the preparation of professionals for K-12 schools remains a vital part of our overall institutional mission,” he said.
He noted that graduate programs in health sciences are still in high demand, so the University has approved a doctor of nursing Practice program for nurse practitioners to achieve professional certification when requirements are changed in 2015. Gilbertson said he fears this may change the main focus of the program’s mission.
“We are concerned that too many universities in Michigan are already attempting to offer doctorates, and that doing so would necessitate an unwise move away from our primary mission of providing outstanding teaching at the baccalaureate and masters levels,” Gilbertson said.
As for campus construction, Gilbertson said that there wasn’t much to announce.
“Our physical campus is, by most standards, fairly new,” he said. “Our priority is to maintain and improve what we have.”
The boiler in Science East is set to be replaced at a cost of $600,000.
The Ryder Center roof, which is more than 20 years old, will eventually be replaced. The freshman suites will also be updated.
He said Wickes Hall is in need of fixing to accommodate what he called “energy-saving improvements.”
“Our highest priority for capital support from the state Legislature is a major renovation of Wickes Hall,” he said.
Gilbertson also discussed the price of a higher education, which was brought to his attention and discussed by the media.
“Most of the economic analyses that have been publicized seem to come to the conclusion – albeit reluctantly – that the ‘value’ of an academic degree does exceed its cost to the recipient,” he said.
He added that individuals with a graduate degree earn nearly 84 percent more than high school graduates.
Gilbertson said that although individuals are skeptical of the costs, the University’s funding by the state of Michigan has dropped radically and annual appropriations have continued to be cut.
“We need answers, but all of us need to understand that we are under a new level of unsentimental scrutiny and our performance is, however clumsily and imperfectly, going to be measured,” he said.
He said he was confident in the value of the University to the people in the state and in the region, but there was still work that needed to be done.
“But all the answers to all the questions won’t all be easy, and in many ways we will need to work harder and do better,” he said.