In State of the University speech, Bachand lays out enrollment and retention strategies

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President Don Bachand gave his fourth State of the University address in the Malcolm Field Theatre at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 8.

Bachand’s annual State of the University speech has served as a yearly update on the university administration’s goals and accomplishments over the preceding year, an explanation of its policy plans for the coming year, as well as recognition of faculty, staff and student achievements.

In his speech, Bachand cited the statewide decline in college enrollment as the university’s major challenge and discussed plans to cope with the current decline in enrollment while pursuing future growth.

When discussing the major issues facing the university, Bachand asserted that while SVSU is not facing an ideal set of circumstances, the administration is making the right decisions in dealing with its challenges and charting a course forward.

The first part of Bachand’s speech gave a frank assessment of the challenges that have faced the university over the last year, most notably the continued decline in enrollment. Bachand said he felt the university was charting the right course in dealing with the challenges it’s faced over the last year.

“Through the efforts of our faculty and our staff, our university is indeed headed in the right direction,” Bachand said.

Bachand then went on to lay out what he saw as the most important challenges SVSU will face over the next year, and how the university plans to respond to them.

“Enrollment, as you well know, continues to be a priority and a challenge,” Bachand said. “Our fall headcount was 8,662, compared to 9,165 last fall. Student credit hours have decreased some 50,000, or over 18 percent, from our peak enrollment of 10,800 students.”

Bachand linked declining enrollment with declining revenues, noting that the decline in credit hours equates to a roughly $17 million loss. He spoke about how SVSU’s budget and enrollment planning has responded to those challenges.

“SVSU has effectively managed the decline in student population by implementing a series of budget reductions over the past five years,” Bachand said. “(These) include workforce reductions to ensure that revenues and expenditures are in alignment.”

Decreased enrollment means less demand for classes, which has left the administration with few options in managing its workforce. Bachand said layoffs are always his last resort, preferring planned departures and other strategies.

“I understand the process of scaling down is difficult,” Bachand said. “But we have managed this process thoughtfully, and in my judgment, effectively.”

Increasing enrollment rates remains the administration’s top priority. Bachand talked about strategies to increase enrollment and explained why doing so is important.

“Our primary goal is to increase enrollment,” Bachand said. “Prudent enrollment management is key to SVSU. It leads to stable staffing and budget planning over time.”

According to Bachand, the administration has determined that the sustainable size of SVSU’s student population is 8,500, and their enrollment goals are focused on maintaining this number. To maintain this population level, enrollment will need to increase among undergraduate freshmen and graduate students.

Bachand said the administration has put in place an enrollment management plan that will develop recruitment and retention targets to maintain this number of students. To reach out to students in the region, they plan to use best practices in admissions and financial aid, review academic programs to make sure SVSU is meeting demand and develop marketing strategies to effectively attract students.

The administration will also seek to increase first- and second-year retention rates and stabilize international student enrollment.

For the remainder of his address, Bachand touched on major events from the previous year like the completion of the Zahnow Library renovations and gave an update on the construction of the new College of Business and Management building expansion before highlighting notable student and faculty accomplishments.