President William Behre delivered his inaugural State of the University Address to an audience of faculty, students and staff in the Smith Student Center Ballroom this Thursday.
Behre reviewed the financial status of the university as well as informed stakeholders on enrollment, new scholarships and outlined some of his administration’s goals moving forward.
“By most measures, Slippery Rock University is doing extraordinarily well,” Behre said.
He went on to talk about Slippery Rock’s less than one percent drop in enrollment, comparing it to the double-digit losses of other PASSHE schools. In an interview after the address, Behre commented on the lower enrollment rate, saying that he would only be concerned should it develop into a trend.
“We are down off of record years,” Behre said, “So occasionally you will get a little regression to a median. I think what we need to do, and what folks are doing… is really parsing it out and figuring out what programs we missed our mark in and why.”
Behre also explained that he does not think the feature of the university lies in continued growth.
“I think it’s a mistake to look for growth every year because if you continue to grow you stop to be who you are,” Behre said. “What I would rather do is figure out how do we keep the students we have and how do we right-size Slippery Rock.”
Behre explained that Slippery Rock’s retention rate in the low 80s is nationally a very good number, but still leaves room for our improvement.
“That’s still 20 percent of our students that aren’t coming back,” Behre said.
Later in the address, Behre announced that the university is financially solid. With the education and general budget, the university’s primary budget, ended the 2017-2018 fiscal year with a surplus of $691,000. This was made possible by increasing enrollment, a three-and-a-half percent tuition and fee increase, and a four percent increase in state appropriations. Behre also said that this year’s budget is balanced, by implementing a 2.99 percent tuition and fees increase and receiving an additional $1.1 million in state appropriations to make up for the decreased enrollment and keep up with rising costs.
“We are collectively working hard to balance all these factors in order to maintain our position of financial strength and stability,” Behre said.
One of the main talking points by used by Behre during the interview process last semester was the importance of alumni fundraising. Behre continued to stress this and laid out a goal of having 10 percent of alumni involved in donating by the year 2024.
“It will be a great way to celebrate the 135 anniversary of this institution to get our alumni back and engaged,” Behre said.
Later Behre commented that the goal of 10 percent was not random.
“[In] recent data I saw the top PASSHE school was at 10 percent,” Behre said. “We do think it’s a good reach goal to say ‘we want to be with the best’ and now we have to figure out how to do it.”
Behre highlighted the need for this additional funding due to the decreasing funding from the Board of Governors. According to Behre, under this year’s funding formula SRU received a million dollars less than expected.
“This was unfortunate but not unexpected,” Behre said.
Due to donations, The Slippery Rock Foundation was able to provide $2.1 million in scholarship support for SRU students with 40 new or increased scholarships. According to Behre, 100 percent of the executive leadership and 54 percent of faculty donated to the SRU family campaign.
“It’s kind of goofy to donate part of your paycheck back to the people who generate the paycheck,” Behre said. “Or to say to students, ‘hey, you pay a bill, could you give us a few bucks more?'”
In response to those lines of thought, Behre encouraged that donations be put towards the foundation as opposed to the university itself.
“Don’t pay a dime to Slippery Rock, but go to the foundation and donate to a student,” Behre said. “Because it’s not about Slippery Rock, it’s about Slippery Rock students.”
According to Behre, the most salient concerns expressed to him since his interview process were related to the issue of diversity on campus. In response to these concerns, Behre’s administration devoted $400,000 to scholarships for underrepresented students at $100,000 per year guaranteed over the next four years.
“This is not enough but it is a start, and you have to start somewhere,” Behre said.
To conclude the address, Behre explained how his administration would accept feedback over the coming months and hoped to use the thoughts of the university community to drive the initiatives in the future.