New ways of thinking
Weekly budget forum celebrates successes and examines new methods of handling budget challenges
The few and the hardy.
That’s how UND Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Tom DiLorenzo described the small gathering of people at the March 20 post-Spring Break budget forum. However, the more intimate crowd allowed for more pointed discussion of matters concerning student success, tuition and shared services.
DiLorenzo led off the discussion with disheartening news from Washington, D.C. In his budget, President Donald Trump has proposed cutting funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) by nearly 20 percent—a massive hit that would hurt research universities like UND if enacted.
“There is more research funding in Homeland Security and the Department of Defense, so we may be looking there more in the future,” DiLorenzo said.
Enhancing retention, graduation and teaching strategies
DiLorenzo took a moment to open the floor to share success stories and strategies that different units on campus have been using to keep forward momentum in the current budget situation.
Assistant Vice President for Student Academic Services Lisa Burger mentioned that UND’s student success system, Starfish, is gaining more traction on campus. The platform allows faculty and advisors to alert students to potential issues in their course performance before it’s too late to recover. It’s been cited as one of UND’s best retention tools.
“Our goal was to have 65 percent participation from faculty members—now we are at 71 percent. So that’s very, very good,” she said.
Burger added that her unit will be initiating another phone calling campaign this weekend to target prospective students who are still on the bubble, with a 30-70 percent predicted probability of enrolling at UND.
“Some of the modeling work we’re doing is really fascinating. You can target those students where you’ll have the greatest impact on getting them to come here,” DiLorenzo said. “That’s helping us a lot in dealing with limited resources.”
Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Debbie Storrs said her college is hosting an informational session for students to learn how to check if they’re on track for graduation. She said many students don’t use the tools that are available, so training may help them check in while they’re in their first, second or third year rather than later.
Lori Swinney, director of the Center for Instructional and Learning Technologies, reported that faculty-submitted proposals for Teaching with Technology sessions for this summer came in faster than her office had ever seen, showing incredible proactivity in changing the classroom experience for students.
“And with the Active Learning Workshop Series and the Enhanced Teaching forums that we’re having, we’ve had really good faculty support and interest,” Swinney said.
Dean of the John D. Odegard School of Aerospace Sciences Paul Lindseth inquired about where the campus is on talks about differential tuition, in which some colleges would ask higher rates of their students to cover the extra expenses of certain programs.
DiLorenzo said meetings are being held weekly to discuss new tuition models and details are not yet solid. He further explained the North Dakota University System was looking to allow campuses to combine fees with tuition and to request differential tuition.
“We have embraced that notion. So we’re looking at how we could roll up program and course fees, and then use differential tuition as a way to target those programs that are more expensive,” he said. “The legislature was clear that they don’t want that used as a way to increase fees to make up for the cuts that we’re making.”
DiLorenzo added that the idea of differential tuition would have to be taken to the Deans’ Council for discussion, and if approved, would not go into effect until the fall of 2018 at the very earliest.
Tanya Butler, coordinator of engagement and events for the College of Arts and Sciences, sought an update to the discussions of centralized or shared services across campus units.
“We, in the Executive Council, talked about eight or nine different places where we could look at that,” DiLorenzo said. “(VP for Finance and Operations) Alice Brekke has started a study looking at student account services, financial aid and One-Stop. That group is looking at ways that they may be able to do things a little more efficiently to better serve our students.” He added that studies of different support areas will continue throughout the next eight months to a year.
“Who is helping to make some of those decisions?” Butler asked. “How involved are the people, say, at the college level and the department level, in making those recommendations?”
DiLorenzo responded that for the student-facing services plan, Brekke has pulled together a core team to lay out process and timeline. This will include consideration of how and when to engage participation with the broader campus community. He said the core team will provide regular updates on the project.
“It’s a big task,” he added.
The Budget Fora will continue with a discussion of research led by Vice President for Research and Economic Development Grant McGimpsey on Wednesday, March 29 from 3-4 p.m. in Education Building Room 7. Additional fora will be held at the same location on the following dates from 3-4 p.m.:
April 5 (UND Foundation updates)
April 12 (Provost updates and Strategic Planning Committee updates)
April 19 (Provost updates and Strategic Planning Committee updates)
May 3 (University Council meeting – Location TBA)
For more budget-related communications, click on the Budget tab of the UND Today homepage.