Faculty leaders' reaction mixed on enrollment proposals

Yes to strategic enrollment goals for the campuses and collaborative planning.

But a centralized admissions and financial aid processing system? That will require additional discussion and consultation, University of Illinois faculty told President Michael Hogan on Thursday.

A final report detailing faculty reaction to an enrollment management report is not expected to be sent to the president until next month. But in the meantime, faculty leaders briefed the president on their initial reactions to a comprehensive report that proposes several changes to how the university manages admissions and financial aid.

Earlier this year, Hogan hired two outside admissions consultants to review the university's management of its enrollment and to produce a report. That report outlined 21 different recommendations on how the university recruits and admits and extends offers and financial aid to students for all three campuses.

Faculty leaders from all three campuses have had various committees reviewing the report, with some planning their own formal reports and others discussing the review in a committee of the whole.

UI Professor Carol Leff, who chairs the University Senates Conference committee reviewing the report and comprising faculty from all three campuses, said faculty found the first two recommendations about goals and strategic planning "absolutely both necessary and valuable and should be undertaken at the first opportunity."

Faculty also generally agreed with the recommendation to move up the timing of when students are notified about financial aid packages.

However, they acknowledged the challenge university staff have faced in recent years with setting tuition rates later in the year because of budget delays in Springfield.

While some supported the recommendation to join the Common Application Consortium, in which students can send to any of the member schools, after talking with university staff, they learned joining the consortium may entail annual fees and possibly additional staffing.

Professor Mike Biehl, who was on the Urbana task force, described the additional recommendations in the report as "complex" and "intertwined with the first two recommendations," meaning it would be hard to fully understand how to implement the other recommendations without having gone through the first two recommendations.

"Our feeling was the devil is in the details," Biehl said. "It's hard to know how to embrace the rest of recommendations."

Added Leff: "What the outside report doesn't do is provide a cost/benefit analysis and look at resource questions."

Some faculty also raised questions about centralized admissions and financial aid processing.

Hogan told the group meeting Thursday that he thought the "biggest shortfall" in the university's enrollment strategy was "we're not putting the resources into it."

"If something is a priority, you find resources for it," he said. If issues such as diversity and accessibility are important to the board of trustees and the university, "we should find resources to honor those commitments."

Hogan also told those attending the meeting he was "a little disappointed" faculty recommended "only three" of the recommendations for him to move forward on.

Biehl told Hogan faculty were not working against him.

"We embrace the synergies and efficiencies you and the board of trustees are trying to bring to enrollment management. We're not rejecting these recommendations. In our assessment, recommendations one and two (on strategic planning and goal setting) ... are things that should be institutionalized and are the most valuable recommendations that come out of the enrollment management report, not that the other recommendations are to be rejected."

Faculty leaders are expected to meet again to further discuss the report and meet with the president's staff.

"I'm not asking for consent but advice," Hogan said.

The Urbana faculty-student senate as a whole is expected to take up the topic at its next meeting on Dec. 5.

In the meantime, Hogan has asked Avijit Ghosh to assist him with implementing recommendations within the enrollment management report while a search for an executive director for enrollment management, a new university administrator who would oversee enrollment issues, is pending.

UI spokesman Tom Hardy said there is no timetable for establishing that position.

Ghosh, a former vice president for technology and economic development and prior to that, dean of the UI College of Business, was appointed last year to be special assistant to the president for organizational effectiveness and strategic priorities. In that role, he has worked with Hogan on various administrative streamlining and restructuring efforts.

As for the issue of centralizing admissions and financial aid processes, Hogan said: "I don't like to think of this as centralization."

The three campuses will be coordinating together, but the admissions and financial aid offices still will be on the campuses, he said.

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sgraham48 wrote on November 19, 2011 at 8:11 am

The tension between faculty and administration (at institutions of higher learning) is an historical, well-documented fact.  In my 24 years at the U of IL (Urbana), I've seen the well intended on both sides toss the baby out with the bath water.  At a time when resources are so tight, I hope both sides at the U of IL will come together to find ways to consolidate, collaborate, and share costs in common areas.  Is the fear from faculty competition within the "family?"  At some point, all campuses win when a "star shines" in the family.  That said, I cannot even begin to tell you in the few years I worked and the minimal projects I participated in how much money, time and resources were wasted because faculty and administration could not agree.  In one project alone, $3M was totally wasted.  I hope this time is different.