State of The University 2012
Welcome, everyone. It's always heartwarming for me to get together with our community and talk about what we have accomplished and even the problems and challenges that we’re going to work on together. It really and truly is special to me to be able to view our successes and our challenges collectively as a community. I express particular gratitude to the leadership team of this University – to the deans, the directors and vice presidents of the University, who have done such an exceptional job of leading this University forward. I'm profoundly grateful to each of you.
Let me briefly give you an update on the University. The one-sentence summary is: We’re meeting or exceeding all of our major objectives at the University. We've got a remarkable success story to tell. I like to remind everyone what it is we're trying to accomplish at UT Dallas. We are trying to ascend to the ranks among the very best public research universities in America.
This table lists the relatively small, top-ranked public universities in the U.S. You can see from this table that the schools we are trying to compete with and be peers with – the relatively small top-ranked schools – have an average enrollment of full-time equivalent students of about 25,000 and an average faculty size, measured as tenured or tenure-track faculty, of about 1,000. You see our latest numbers down at the bottom. Very simply put, we don't need to change who we are. We just need to scale up to be able to offer the full complement of courses to our students, the full array of research in the disciplines that we choose to compete in, and I think if we just keep doing that and keep scaling up, we will see ourselves, in time, listed among those universities.
So the key to accomplishing that goal is simply to increase the student body steadily. In fact, my biggest fear is that we could grow too quickly. About 5 percent – 4 to 5 percent – is a reasonable rate of growth, both for the student body and faculty. We want to add select degree programs, but we have avoided mission creep throughout our history, and I am bound and determined that we continue to avoid mission creep. We still have plenty of holes to fill. That is to say, new degree programs to develop within our existing schools. I think if we keep growing steadily, maintaining and building quality, all of the other parameters that define national rankings – recognition of our faculty, research dollars, etc. – will all fall into place. So we just need to keep ourselves focused on steady, intelligent growth while sustaining quality and not losing the wonderful mix of culture that we have here at this institution. Just because we get bigger doesn't mean we have to start acting like a big, impersonal university. We want to maintain that wonderful spirit that we have here, and I like to say that in order to do this, we want to tackle globally significant problems that are of great interest to local businesses, communities, arts enterprises and so forth. If we tackle those big problems that are locally relevant, we will earn the support of those local entities, and that will be key to getting the resources we need and the support we need.
I want to address four major areas of our work: student enrollment, faculty growth, improved student retention and graduation. These are key performance metrics and keys to improving the efficiency and cost-effectiveness of the University. I also want to talk about some of the new programs and buildings and offer a report on progress on our fundraising campaign.
We’re at 19,728 total students. That’s a little misleading, though, in that we do have quite a few part-time students, and we love those part-time students. They’re smart, professional people who come to campus and elevate the quality of the classroom experience for everyone. So we actually have 15,700-plus FTE students. That’s a bit more accurate measure of the actual scale of our usage of campus resources. So when we compare ourselves to the schools with 25,000 FTE students, we still have quite a bit of growth to slowly and methodically realize in the years ahead.
In this slide, the first row across the top is of great interest to me. As we continue to grow the University organically, we need to grow the freshman class. This shows a little bit of a decline in the freshman class this year. It's a bit of a concern. I think there are a couple of reasons for that. One is that the University of Texas at Austin surprisingly admitted 1,000 more additional freshmen in its class than they had the year before. That took some of our prospective students.
But I also think that the enrollment had been growing so rapidly that I believe we got a little bit complacent and just assumed it would keep on happening. That's something we need to guard against.
On the other hand, look at the spectacular improvement in the quality parameters. Last year our freshman class had one of the highest average SAT scores among public universities in Texas at 1248. This year, our SAT score is a remarkable 1270, which is competitive with a lot of the great universities in America. And I can tell you an ACT score of 28 is off the chart as an average ACT score; that's a very, very powerful number.
Last year with 53 freshman National Merit Scholars, we had more than the rest of The University of Texas System combined. This year we have 63 freshman National Merit Scholars. So I'm not terribly concerned about the freshman class, because the quality just gets better and better. If we can steadily increase the size, we’ll be just fine.
The diversity of our freshman class is interesting. In particular I noticed that the number of Asian Americans, probably for the first time in the history of the University, surpassed the number of white students on our campus this fall. And indeed an interesting fact in Texas is that Asian Americans make up 4 percent of the Texas high school senior class each year and yet they make up almost 20 percent of the freshman class at UT Austin and now 36 percent of the freshman class at UT Dallas.
Of course, the Hispanic population is growing very rapidly, and we are up there as well, at least in percentage. But I'm very concerned about trying to reach out to the communities of this area especially with regard to Hispanic and African American populations. And in that regard, the work of our Office of Diversity and Community Engagement is very important, as is the work in the office of the Dean of Undergraduate Studies.
Transfer students earn about half – actually a little more than half – of all the undergraduate degrees we award. The diversity within this subset of students, especially with regard to Hispanics and African Americans, is rather better than among our freshman population.
Graduate enrollment grew even more than undergrad enrollment this year. By the way, this year our overall total enrollment growth was right in the middle of our target range of 4 to 5 percent, exactly where we wanted to be. The graduate student enrollment growth was almost 10 percent. If you look at the numbers, though, you'll find that nearly all that growth was in two schools: The Naveen Jindal School of Management and the Jonsson School of Engineering and Computer Science.
Here's a bit of information about the origins of our student body. The top states of origin are as you might expect, Texas, by far, and California, Illinois and so forth. The four top counties that supply our students are the four counties listed in the DFW Metroplex, but then Harris County, which is Houston, and Travis County, which is Austin, make up numbers 5 and 6.
Interestingly, if you looked at the bottom a couple years ago, 60 percent of the students were male. Now it's 56 percent male, so I’m pleased to see we’re attracting more female students to campus. Guys, the numbers are looking better for you there.
You can see we’re about 73 percent full time. My guess is if you come back in 10 years, the percentage of full-time students will be a bit larger than 73 percent. But as I said, we don't ever want to give up the part-time students. They’re great for us and great for classes.
We’re 39 percent graduate students; that's held relatively constant over quite a period of time and I don't necessarily see that number changing a whole lot 10, 15 years from now. That's a higher percentage of graduate students than most public universities in America and the reason goes back to the origins of the University starting as a graduate program.
To our deans and to our provost, Hobson Wildenthal, I offer profound congratulations on the growth of the tenured and tenure-track faculty this year. We added a net 39 new faculty, which is the biggest faculty growth in the years I've been here. Well done, not only in numbers but also in quality. Keep hiring; somehow, someway we’ll find the money to pay for this and we might even find a place – meaning an office – in which to actually put these folks. This is what we’ve got to do. This graph has to remain consistent in terms of trend if we're going to get to where we want to go. This is the single most important graph in the whole presentation. If we keep doing this and if the deans and provost keep setting the bar high on quality, everything else is going to work out for UT Dallas.
This graph is a little bit old, but I included it to remind people that we’re not going to scale the University without scaling the staff. Our staff members are the pulse of the place. It wouldn't work without you, and as we continue to grow the entire University, we’re going to have to continue grow the staff. I would say this, though: As has been true for the last 20 years, the nature of the kind of staff that we need has been changing, and what has been changing is that the skill level required keeps getting higher. The jobs just keep getting more complex and more sophisticated. And in that sense, the staff is even more important than ever.
I want to return now to the discussion of student metrics. The freshman-to-sophomore retention rate is a key measure of productivity. The best universities in America tend to have about a 90 percent freshman-to-sophomore retention rate, and that is our goal: to get to 90 percent just as quickly as we can. We’re up around 85 percent for our freshman-to-sophomore retention rate. When I consider the need to show productivity, and to make the University more efficient, one of the very best ways that we can do so is, as much as possible, ensure that our very highly qualified students achieve degrees. It is incumbent upon us to try to make sure all of our students are successful. And I implore our faculty and deans to keep your eye on this; to work carefully, especially in the first semester freshman year, to reach out to students who are having difficulty, to intervene early and often, and help improve student success.
I am so proud of this number: Our four-year graduation rate for “first-time-in-college” freshmen has risen to 51 percent. I just looked at the Texas Almanac before I came over here to see what last year's numbers were for Texas A&M and UT Austin and they were: 51 percent for UT Austin and 52 percent for Texas A&M. We have a great opportunity to become the leading public university in Texas in terms of four-year graduation rate. We are right there. And again to our deans and our faculty: Keep this going. This is the story I want to tell on productivity and efficiency. This is how to make this University truly shine.
If I go back to the year I came to UT Dallas, which was 2005, our four-year graduation rate was 31 percent. So we’ve gone in seven years from 31 percent to 51 percent. That is truly remarkable. I would not have told you in 2005, realistically, that I thought that was possible. And when I say to this community that we are exceeding expectations, I think this is but one example. Congratulations, faculty and students.
These are our graduation rates for master’s students and doctoral students. The master’s student rate is strong compared to national norms and national averages. The PhD rate is not strong, and is one of the challenges I offer to our faculty. In fact, I’ll talk about qualification for the Texas National Research University fund, the so-called Tier One fund. The minimum for the PhD rate is 58 percent. We are not to that number. I think the problem is traceable back to some years ago when we were probably admitting more students to the PhD program then we should have. In other words, anyone who met the minimum number of hours was being enrolled into the PhD program regardless of whether they really intended to get a PhD or not. And so one of the things we're doing – and the provost is taking the lead on this – is being more realistic in whom we admit to the PhD program. These numbers will improve with time, but unfortunately it’s going to be very slow because the typical PhD takes eight to 10 years to graduate.
Our number of doctoral students is rising quickly. We offer only one non-PhD doctoral degree, and that’s the doctor of audiology degree, so most of our doctorates are PhDs. To return for a moment to the NRUF or Tier One fund, the minimum needed to qualify is 200 PhDs per year, so that's the magic number. That's the number Amanda Rockow, our vice president for public affairs, wants to keep our legislative supporters happy. We will get there in due course, but I am not someone who would say to anyone that we should suddenly start flooding people out with doctorates, because for us, quality is everything. Keep up the steady growth, and we will be fine.
Dr. Bruce Gnade’s biggest challenge, I think, is keeping the Office of Sponsored Projects up with the rate of the growth of research, and as you can see, it is growing. We actually had a little bit less total research in this recently completed year, a little over $90 million compared to the previous year, which was about $96 million, and that's because a $9 million project evaporated from one year to the next. That's of zero concern to me. The federal research keeps growing. The restricted research keeps growing. This is very organic and very real. It may go up and down just a little bit, but as I said, if we keep up the faculty hiring, these expenditures, too, will ascend.
So I mentioned this so-called Tier One fund, the National Research University Fund. To gain eligibility for it we have to meet certain parameters for two consecutive years. First are some gateway parameters. You have to have restricted research expenditures for two consecutive years of at least $45 million. In the year just completed, we did that for the first time, and I think we will sustain and exceed that each year hereafter. You can see you have to have four of the six other requirements listed here.
We’ve got three of those in back-to-back years. The others include:
- An endowment of $400 million. We’re a little under $300 million right now.
- At least 200 PhDs, as mentioned earlier. Right now we’re being hampered by the PhD graduation rate.
Being qualified for benefits from this fund will pay us about $7 million a year. I believe we will qualify within the next several years. I won’t be so bold as to guess which year that might be, but I will say with total confidence that this will happen within a few years.
As you know we're experiencing a building boom. The Visitor Center and University Bookstore is open. Residence Hall III just opened this fall. Residence Hall V will open next. Again, in an engineering feat, we decided to open Residence Hall V before Residence Hall IV, so keep that in mind. Residence Hall V will look just like Residence Hall III. Here's a map of the residence hall areas.
Phase I was the first phase built. That’s at the southeast corner of what formerly was the driving range. Phase II was built immediately north of that. Phase III was opened a year ago over toward Waterview. Phase V, being built before Phase IV, is under construction right now. Phase IV will go to our Board of Regents for approval and for design development in November. And it will actually look different than the other four. It will have a bit of a different architectural expression to it. It will have a dining facility right on the lake, actually. You see the pond at the bottom of the slide. There’ll be a walkway looking out on the pond and the dining hall right next to that with recreational facilities in Phase IV as well.
The Arts and Technology Building should open in the summer of 2013. I'm so excited about this. It’s a spectacular building, truly a spectacular building. The Jindal School of Management addition should be approved soon as well. It will be a substantial addition, and of course that will be immediately on the east side in what is now a grassy field. Parking Garage No. 1 will be under construction pretty soon. That will be right next to the Jindal School. We have two more that have been approved, so in time we'll have our first three parking garages. We have also been approved to build a new Bioengineering and Sciences building. Some people are calling it NSERL II. It will be constructed immediately south of the existing, so-called Mermaid building or NSERL I. It’s going to be 22,000 square feet at a cost of $108 million dollars. We are fast-tracking this building to try to open it as quickly as possible because the provost and the deans tell me that they’ve already filled it on paper, so we’re building as quickly as we can. The second parking garage will be built right next to it, and by the way, we have planned ahead because the parking garage is going where there is a parking lot, so we have already built the parking lot for the displaced parking spaces.
We’ve got six new buses for campus. In fact, a comprehensive study of where our students live was performed, and new bus routes were created based on where the students are actually living, so you'll see more and more buses around campus. This is a graph of the ridership on these buses, and you can see the ridership is steady. They're operating on weekends as well to help students get to where they need to go.
And, as we’ve had to push parking further and further out from the core of campus, we have added taxi buses that roam the campus and offer quick, easy service from the relatively far residence halls and parking lots to the central part of campus. This is an expression of caring for our students and staff to make sure that if they're in a hurry, they have a bit of help available to them. I really appreciate that, and want to thank the office of administration for its work in this area.
We’ve modified our dining facilities and other physical aspects of campus to try to address people's needs. We now have a food truck, called Comet Cuisine. There’s sort of a grab-and-go center next to the food court area. To return for a minute to transportation, we have installed electric charging stations for vehicles. We now have a contract in place with Zipcar, so that you can rent a car for an hour or a day. There are now bicycle repair stations, and again, these represent an expression of caring about our community and trying to make life here good. We’ve built four new soccer fields, which are about to open near Campbell Road. We’re relocating the tennis courts that are currently next to the ATEC building, building 10 new tennis courts on the athletic complex south of campus.
I've shown this graph before, and I use it as an introduction to our comprehensive fund raising campaign. In 1991, for every dollar that a student or his or her parents paid in tuition at UT Dallas, the state gave us $4.23 to operate the University. Last year, for every dollar our students or their parents paid in tuition, the state gave us 41 cents to operate the University. I estimate that'll drop in the coming fiscal year to under 40 cents, and, indeed, private support is more important than it ever has been. We’re in the middle of a $200 million comprehensive fundraising campaign.
The first comprehensive fundraising campaign in the history of the University is called Realize the Vision – Tier One and Beyond. This is a graph of annual giving to the University – philanthropic support –and you'll see each year in the early part of the graph, we raised about $5 million dollars. There are two major spikes here in the graph. One is in FY 2000, when thanks to Dr. Wildenthal and Margaret McDermott, the Eugene McDermott Scholars Program was created. The second was because of a major landscaping gift in FY’07. What I really like about this is, like our research expenditure trend, it’s organic. You’re seeing steady, steady growth and really ascendancy to a whole other level of giving. It's on the order of a tenfold increase.
Looking at this graph, you can see that we’re ahead of schedule with regard to our fundraising campaign. But don’t anybody think this is easy. You know, I come to work every day worried about this. To sustain, we have to raise $2.73 million dollars every month. We have to come to work every day and raise $91,000, so don’t anybody think that this money just drops out of the sky. It’s really, really hard work. Having said that, when we head out for winter break in December and we look at what that number’s going to be – I won't tell you what it's going to be, but I’m going to be very happy, and I congratulate and thank our great development staff, our deans and our faculty for working with the donors.
The key is we're building a base here. We’re not just raising money. We’re trying to, in a very sustainable way, raise every aspect of this University’s operations to top-tier, including the kind of alumni support in the annual giving that one would expect and see at those five universities that I mentioned earlier.
Let me begin to wrap this up by talking about some of our challenges. I mentioned earlier that freshman enrollment is a challenge, and it's a bigger challenge than it might appear, because despite the fact that Texas is a growing state, producing more and more high school graduates every year, I am told by demographers that if you look at the production of Texas high school graduates with SAT scores in the range of 1250 to 1270, the projection for the next 20 years is no change whatsoever. So we are not going to grow our freshman class simply as a result of the growth in the state of Texas. We will grow our freshman class by convincing high school graduates that this is the best place for them to come, that we can empower them more than other universities. That's not easy to do, and I know that Dr. Wildenthal and others have been taking a deep, deep look at next steps as we continue to increase freshman enrollment.
I mentioned that we have a benchmark to reach of 200 PhDs for qualification to enter the NRUF, but that's not actually the issue. The issue is just the growth and quality of the PhD program. I am so thrilled to announce that at the very top of my list of priorities for the University there’s one I can check off, and that is authorization for a PhD program in mechanical engineering. We struggled with that for several years, and just a week ago that was finally approved. That's a key for us because that has potential to be a big, big program. But it's the quality of students in the program, it’s the infrastructure and support, it's making our PhD programs not only produce the numbers but look and feel like the very best programs in the country that we have to keep in mind. Dr. Wildenthal has been talking with me about some of the steps that will be necessary to accomplish that, and we’re in agreement that the focus must be on quality.
Many of our administrative processes are in a state of what I would call growing pains. We have grown so rapidly that we've not necessarily caught up with the kind of scale of operation that we need. PeopleSoft is a great example. This is a far more complex system than what we have had before, not only that it requires perhaps more people to operate it, but also requires different people with different skill sets. I'd use our Office of Sponsored Projects as another example. The research not only has grown in quantity, but it has grown in complexity. For example, we have far more funded projects from the National Institutes of Health that involve human subjects. That involves a lot more complexity, and if you spent your life working on a certain type of project that never did human subjects research projects, you may not have the skill set in it. So it's not just that we are growing in scale, we’re increasing in complexity as well. I remain dedicated to doing what we need to do, to continuing not only to grow but also to address the increased complexity of what we do. I’d use Information Resources as another example. We are hiring faculty now with far more sophisticated demands on computing infrastructure, so it's not just more faculty but it's more complexity as well.
I've discovered, now that I've been here a little while, that the second year of the state legislative biennium is always the more difficult of the two because the Legislature appropriates a fixed amount of money for both years. And so the first year reflects the growth of the University, and the second year is based on the data from a year earlier, when we were smaller. So this year that we are in now is the second year of the biennium, and it is a tight budget year. We’re going to have to manage very carefully. That said, I am optimistic for next year, for a couple of reasons.
The enrollment growth, which has been so significant at the University, should be reflected in the next budget cycle. Even if there is no greater appropriation for higher education, our slice of the pie will be significantly larger if things work the way they normally do. Enrollment growth is expected to continue at a steady pace, so I think it will in fact be better next year. But this year is a tight budget year.
We have greater needs for space. Although we've got hundreds and hundreds of thousands of square feet of space under construction, it's still not enough. This will be a continuing challenge for us.
The last one I want to mention is blended and online course delivery. The University of Texas System announced its partnership with edX a couple of weeks ago, which is a not-for-profit enterprise that offers massively open online courses – or MOOCs is the acronym. This is an exciting new development. Nobody is required to develop a massively open online course, but these folks are experts at it, and if one of our faculty wants to try to do that, all of the infrastructure is there to do it. Quite a few people I've talked to think that higher education will be turned upside down because of blended and online learning. Whether that will happen, I can’t say, but I can tell you this: Seven years ago, about 1 percent of the courses we offered at UT Dallas were blended or online. Today it's about 8 percent. Technology is playing an increasingly important role in the way we advise students, in the educational support materials we provide for students, and what I want this institution to do is lead.
There are golden opportunities out there for faculty who wish to get involved. I’d point to our Arts and Technology program as one of the most exciting places in the nation for developing some of these educational tools. I point to our Center for BrainHealth, which has been using the gaming techniques developed by Arts and Technology to actually treat children with learning disorders. The University of Texas System has put $50 million out there to support blended and online learning. I say, let’s lead the way, and let’s do it intelligently. Let’s always come back to our roots in quality, but let’s not be afraid to experiment. This University has never been afraid to try a new way. We were a graduate student institution only. We started degree programs nobody else had conceived of. When the law said we could admit freshmen only if the quality of the incoming freshman class was no less than UT Austin, we didn't blink an eye. We went ahead. We have the most innovative tuition program in the nation. We are not afraid to experiment.
So to our faculty, I say, I stand with if you want to give this a go. Let's try to be leaders and innovators in this domain, always coming back to that grounding in quality.
To close, I want to say thank you – a profound thank you – to all of our students, faculty and staff members. I say well done. UTD, Whoosh!
Updated: February 8, 2013