Dear WVU Faculty:
As we wrap up the fall semester, I wanted to take the opportunity to reflect on the past few months and share some thoughts for the coming year.As some of you learned in our December Faculty Senate meeting, institutions of higher education, like ours, are facing a number of significant challenges. David Attis, managing director for strategic research at EAB, provided a somewhat sobering presentation about the challenges we face, as well as the opportunities to shape our success.
One of the greatest challenges on the horizon is a decline in high school enrollments, the result of the declining birth rate nationwide. Experts predict a 14 percent decrease in the number of 18-year-olds across the nation after 2025. With fewer prospective students looking at college, the competition will be fierce. Our efforts to attract – and retain – those students will be more important than ever.
But while this projection might sound dire, EAB also shared a number of paths forward – ways that can help us not just weather the storm but reimagine ourselves for the future. Some of those paths include:
- Focusing on academic programs that are relevant to our students, especially those that are in high demand, such as professional master’s degree programs.
- Creating academic pathways aimed at new audiences, including adult learners, veterans and transfer students.
- Providing more flexible options for students with regard to everything from registration and scheduling to support services to online and on-campus offerings.
- Developing key research areas that are multidisciplinary, capitalize on our strengths and serve as differentiators to set WVU apart from the competition.
- Emphasizing our “affordability” and overall value to this cost-conscious, outcome-driven generation of students (and their parents).
- Leveraging effective retention strategies to ensure students stay enrolled and are successful through completion.
In the coming months, I’ll be turning to all of you to help identify additional solutions and to work together toward a brighter future for WVU. Each of you plays a vital part in the University’s success, and everyone is responsible for shaping the culture that will enable us to adapt and thrive during challenging times.
During this holiday season, I am grateful to live and work in a place that is defined by its core values and is driven by a sense of mission and purpose. I look forward to coming together in 2020 with renewed passion, energy and hope. I hope you will join me on the journey.
Warm wishes to you and yours,
Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs