Updated: October 24, 2018
This document represents a compilation of questions asked at campus forums in recent months. This FAQ document will continue to be updated. Please send questions to email@example.com for inclusion. Thank you!
What factors led to the need for budget reductions at the end of FY18? What can we expect for this fiscal year and beyond?
The Arkansas Department of Higher Education has reported a decline in the college-going rate of public high school graduates since 2015. Fewer traditional college-age students are enrolling in Arkansas colleges and universities. College enrollment also tends to decline when the unemployment rate is low. The opportunity to earn a competitive salary can be a compelling reason for prospective students to delay enrollment or not to attend college at all. Both of these factors have led to flat and/or declines in enrollment for many universities in Arkansas—and this means less funding. We have experienced this on our campus. Additionally, we have invested in infrastructure in recent years (purchase of chillers, roof replacement, ventilation systems, etc.) to ensure efficient operations. Expenditures have increased while funding has held flat or declined. This has led to difficult decisions in the planning and budgeting process.
Our campus community has rallied to improve our recruitment efforts, and the record first-time freshmen and graduate school enrollment rates in fall 2018 are encouraging indicators for the university. However, we also know that performance-based funding requires us to improve our graduation and retention rates. Our fall 2012 first-time, full-time 6-year graduation rate was 34 percent. While we have work to do to improve our graduation rate, we are encouraged by improvements in retention. The retention for both fall 2016 and 2017 was 65 percent. That was a 5 percent increase from fall 2015, which was 60 percent, and a 7 percent increase from fall 2014 at 58 percent. Our investments in student services are contributing to higher retention rates, which are a good indicator for our graduation rate of the future.
We expect the funding environment to remain tight this fiscal year. We are adjusting to the realities of no tuition increase (fees did increase slightly), the potential of fewer students to recruit in Arkansas, and the need to continue improvement in retention and graduation rates for performance-based funding. While our recruitment and retention strategies are already seeing gains, revenue will remain tight and require a lean approach to planning and budgeting this fiscal year.
Did the Board of Trustees respond to the tenured faculty vote last May?
A statement from Bruce Moore, Chair of the Board of Trustees, was emailed to campus on the afternoon of May 29. That statement acknowledges campus concerns and advises of action steps by the planning and budget committee to continue the 10 percent retirement contribution (the committee had previously recommended a reduction) and of the Board’s approval of a balanced budget for the current fiscal year. The Board resolved to consider the contract of the president at its September 14 meeting. Contract consideration was deferred to the November 8 meeting due to the absence of a Trustee at the September meeting. The full statement from May 29 is available below:
“Members of the Board of Trustees have had the opportunity to visit with Henderson’s stakeholders in the past weeks about topics that we all care about deeply. Please know that we appreciate and acknowledge all feedback that we have received from the Henderson State University community. Know that we have heard you and that we share your passion for continuing the excellence, spirit and tradition that this campus has embodied for more than 125 years. We—the trustees—are graduates of this school and are committed to its success.“To address some of the specific comments that we have received, the Board of Trustees will consider the contract of the president at its next regularly-scheduled meeting. We do not manage other personnel decisions of the university but are aware that annual evaluations of other positions are currently in progress. The planning and budget committee has addressed the continuation of the 10 percent retirement contribution, and the Board of Trustees has approved the budget for next fiscal year.
“While we have a number of decisions to make, including how best to plan for campus housing of the future, we are genuinely optimistic about the opportunities before us. We continue to welcome your comments and feedback as we work together to continue the traditions of this campus while considering how best to prepare for the next generation of Reddies.”
What is the process for addressing the Board of Trustees?
The Board of Trustees approved the following policy for requests to speak at meetings:
Were admission standards changed or adjusted for fall 2018 enrollment? Did you include high school students in the record first-time freshman count?
Admissions standards, including guidelines for grade point average and ACT scores, did not change for fall 2018 enrollment. The current freshman class averaged a 3.36 grade point in high school, which can be an indicator of college readiness and is the highest average grade point for a freshmen class. High school students participating in concurrent enrollment are not considered first-time freshman and are not included in the record first-time freshman enrollment of 855. The Fall 2018 Census Report is available at: https://myhenderson.hsu.edu/ICS/Census_Reports/
What is the current plan for evaluating campus housing, and what is the progress with work at Smith?
A new chiller was installed at Smith this summer, and work continues by Kinco to secure the exterior brick structure. The contractor has installed protective coverings for safety in areas where students enter and leave the building.
In July, we issued a request for proposals to identify a firm to assist with assessing our current and future housing needs. Seven responses were received in late August and a review committee was formed to evaluate the proposals, select a firm, and begin the assessment process. The committee includes staff from Finance and Administration, staff from Student Affairs, faculty, students, and one board member. The assessment will include consideration of whether to retain either Smith or Newberry, replace both, renovate both, or determine other suitable actions and timeline. As of October 5, campus occupancy was at 95.44 percent of available capacity.
What are the operating plans for the multi-media center?
We issued a request for proposals to outsource operations of the multi-media center. One response was received but later withdrawn. As a result, we will continue to operate the multi-media center in-house. We now have a full-time multi-media center manager who is adding student labor to ensure that we have appropriate staff coverage. Some of the students will be included in our student management team to help us ensure that we are meeting the needs of the university community through our product and service offerings and our hours of operation. Since we anticipated the multi-media center would be outsourced, these are all unbudgeted salary costs that must be covered. We have worked to continue operations while also aligning costs to available budget.
Why have there been changes in international programs?
Arkansas has experienced a multi-year decline in the number of college-going students. Recruitment of international students, especially through partnership agreements with specific colleges and universities, remains a viable option to grow campus diversity while also generating revenue.
We continue to welcome students from many parts of the world while also developing a targeted approach with a small number of colleges and universities in China. We are working with these academic partners in China to develop dual degree programs in much the same way that we partner with a number of two-year institutions in Arkansas to build pipelines of transfer students. Application, visa, and other assistance for international students is now facilitated by the Admissions team to align these processes with similar campus operations provided for undergraduate students.
We have signed a partnership agreement and worked on degree plans with Guizhou University. We also continue to develop our relationship with Hebei Vocational Art College. Students and faculty from Hebei Art traveled to Arkadelphia and performed concerts with Henderson State students as part of a two-week summer music festival. The signing of the partnership agreement and work on degree plans are important steps toward future enrollment.
What are next steps for the compensation plan? Is the current plan to rework the timeline, and when will information be shared with campus?
Because a compensation plan adjustment was not included in the 2018-2019 budget, we did not finalize the proposal to modify the existing plan. The only proposed change was to update comparator salaries using data available through the annual CUPA-HR salary survey. These updates will be presented to campus as part of the 2019-2020 budget process. The compensation plan will advance when funds become available.
What is the university doing to improve employee healthcare options?
The cost of healthcare plans continues to outpace salary growth across the U.S. Most businesses, including universities, have moved to managed healthcare plans to continue providing this important benefit for employees while also balancing associated costs. Human Resources has hosted Q&A sessions with our current provider, and the Fringe Benefits Committee has collected information (through in-person sessions and a survey) to inform this fall’s vendor selection process.
Open enrollment is October 29-November 9, 2018. Health insurance rates for 2019 are the same as 2018. You may receive a 10 percent premium discount by sending documentation of a wellness visit to your primary care physician or any preventative medical screening in 2018 to Human Resources by December 5. The university has increased its contribution to employee high deductible health savings accounts, and two plan options are now available for dental coverage. Check your email and myHenderson for additional open enrollment announcements and contact firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
What caused the facilities change from Aramark to SSC? Was there a new Request for Proposal for bids and/or a buyout of the existing contract with Aramark? If so, how will this be expensed? Is there is a $1 million equipment purchase that the university will need to recover?
We issued a request for proposals for facilities management services in the spring. This originated in response to campus feedback about services. SSC was identified as the winner of that proposal process. However, the review and selection process concluded during a time of significant change on campus. As a result, after discussion with the review committee members, it was determined that the additional stress of making a change in a major service provider was not advisable at that time. Therefore, we began working with Aramark on the changes that would be necessary to continue their contract.
After multiple conversations with Aramark leadership during the summer, we determined that it was not going to be possible to reach a workable solution to meet expectations. Because SSC had been identified as the top company in the RFP process, we approached them about whether they would honor their proposal, which they agreed to do.
The Aramark contract includes termination buyout language related to the investments the company made in new equipment, deferred maintenance, and a facilities condition report. The unamortized cost of these investments, which are being amortized over five years beginning July 1, 2015, will be paid through a new contract with SSC. As with the original investment, SSC will amortize the payout and include that amortization in the annual contract amount. The exact amount of the payoff has not yet been calculated but it will be significantly less than $1,000,000.
Can you please explain funding for two positions hired in Advancement?
Two positions—Alumni Director and the Associate Vice President for Development and Alumni Relations—were filled in Advancement during the spring semester to replace two employees who left the university. These salaries are funded through a combination of private fundraising and strategic funds allocated during the FY17 budget and planning session.
What is the cost of the new eSports initiative? What safety precautions are planned?
Last spring, faculty in the communications and theatre arts department proposed starting an eSports team at Henderson. We did extensive research about the current eSports trend at colleges and universities, contacted universities with established eSports programs, and surveyed students regarding their desire to start an eSports program. As a result of the research, we determined that it would be feasible to start a program. Our goals are to enhance student life and to utilize eSports as a recruitment initiative.
Start-up costs are estimated at $80,000-$100,000 with funding from private dollars, not the university operating budget. The gaming room is secure, accessible by Henderson ID, and will be staffed by a student worker (this cost was added to the operating budget) when it is open. Other precautions are the same as those we take with any on-campus activity. The university has sovereign immunity as a state entity and does not carry liability insurance.
What are the objectives for the Marketing and Communications department? We now have staff on campus and an outside firm. Why do we need both?
The objectives of the marketing department are to increase enrollment and to build brand awareness for the university. The outside marketing firm provides services that we are not currently staffed to do and/or provides assistance where it can help maximize our efforts with a clear return on investment. Two key areas of work for this fiscal year include the relaunch of hsu.edu and digital advertising in support of recruitment.
Our current website is not an effective recruitment tool due to its age and lack of a mobile-accessible design. While we have internal capacity to create and update content for the website, we do not have anyone on campus with the technical skills needed to build the architecture for and/or to complete the necessary programming, coding and scripting to develop a new website that is suitable for recruitment needs. We have engaged CJRW, an outside agency, to complete the technical aspects of the website. Our internal staff will complete the content development component of the project. We are in the process of meeting with departments on campus to outline the work plan and anticipate a launch date of April 1, 2019.
A second area of focus this fiscal year includes advertising for recruitment purposes. We have secured advertisements in college guides (Arkansas Next, Academic Pride, Arkansas Bound, and the Arkansas Times College Guide) and for billboard advertisements along the I-30 corridor (Benton, Arkadelphia, and Hope). Additionally, we are running digital advertisements geared for prospective students ages 12-19 in spaces such as YouTube and Pandora. All digital ads have clear calls to action—including request information, schedule a campus visit, or apply now.
In the first five weeks of the campaign, our video spots tallied 2,132,531 audience impressions. This generated 1,072 visits by prospective students to our microsite, https://livereddie.hsu.edu/earn-degree-hsu, in response to advertisements and 62 conversions for our calls to action. The campaign is averaging a 17 percent conversion rate, which is well above the education sector’s national average conversion rate of 3.39 percent (Wordstream Google search benchmark). We continue to push for results in the second half of the campaign while working with departments to produce new video spots to rotate in the advertising mix. Marketing and Communications welcomes recommendations from faculty and staff members for student profiles.