O8 Important Opportunities
and Critical Vulnerabilities
Western is building distinctive programs in
applied learning/research and service, producing citizen scholars, and continuing to engage
in a broad-based systemic planning process.
These processes involve faculty, staff, administrators, students, and community groups in initiating and implementing improvements that advance the institution’s mission, values, goals, and directions (Category
Building the New American Regional University (2007-2012) identifies the following seven areas as opportunities for focused
- Building Graduate Programs offers Western the opportunity to enhance the economic and personal goals of individuals and the economic and social development of the community and region.
- Enhancing Academic Quality offers Western the opportunity to provide excellent educational programs to a diverse student population, taking into consideration the academic and career goals of students, and the economic, social, and cultural needs of the region and beyond.
- Sustaining Institutional Accreditation Priorities offers Western the opportunity to continue to develop exemplary practices in applied learning, student engagement, and communicating quality.
- Building connections offers Western the opportunity to focus on the educational, economic, cultural, and social development of the region that the University serves.
- Using Measurement and Assessment offers Western the opportunity to provide evidence of the quality of student learning and the University's effectiveness in meeting its mission.
- Valuing People offers Western the opportunity to sustain a learning and working environment where students, employees, and others choose to invest considerable time, talent, and other resources.
- Building and Managing Resources offers Western the opportunity to uses its resources efficiently and effectively to enhance student learning and student life, to connect the campus and larger community, and to support regional development.
The Western Advantage (2002-2007) focused on Academic Affairs and Enrollment Management; Applied Learning; Information Technology; Facilities and Grounds;Image Enhancement; Community Service, Community Partnerships, and Workforce Development; and Planning and Budgeting as strategic areas for improvement.
Western chose to address three opportunities in its initial group of AQIP Action Projects: Student
Engagement, Applied Learning, and Communicating Quality. A second set of AQIP Action Projects focuses upon Building Graduate Programs, Enhancing Academic Quality through Critical Thinking, and Using Measurement and Assessment. Category Two, "Accomplishing Other Distinctive Objectives," describes the processes and results associated with these Projects.
The level of state funding is a challenge for
Western. Core reductions and withholdings since 2001 have resulted in a loss of approximately $6 million in state funding.The Governor’s recommendation for state support to Western for FY 2007 was $21,181,439, an increase of $415,322. State funding for FY2008 includes a general increase of 4.5 percent in operational funding for Missouri public four-year universities, including a 5.5 percent increase for Western. The percentage difference between the overall increase and Western's increase is part of a three year plan initiated by the Governor that begins to address an existing inequity in funding.
The range of state support per FTE undergraduate in Missouri public regional four year institutions is $4,886 to $7,367 with the median at $5,832. Bringing Western’s state funding to last year’s state median for regional four year institutions would require an increase of $2,123,421.
Western works to keep tuition affordable.
Average family income for Western’s students is among the lowest in Missouri four-year public institutions. Western held tuition constant for three years beginning with Fall 2003. With existing inequity and significant reductions in state funding, holding tuition costs down is a challenge. Western raised tuition $9 per credit hour for Fall 2006.
Western is an open access institution competing with more selective admissions public, four-year institutions in Missouri. Missouri students tend to associate admissions selectivity with quality rather than with
accessibility and affordability. Western continues to honor its commitment to open access while, at the same time, it communicates its quality initiatives and outcomes to stakeholders such as community leaders, parents, counselors/teachers, prospective students, alumni, faculty/staff
Western’s strategic planning process drives quality improvement and enables Western to meet these strategic challenges. Western has recently received state and national recognition for commitment to high quality outcomes.
Western was one of 12 public colleges and
universities chosen nationally to be a founding member of Foundations of Excellence® in the First College Year, supported by Lumina and the Atlantic Philanthropies. The project was designed to provide a model for institutions to evaluate and improve students’ first year of college. Western worked closely with the Policy Center on the First College Year to develop general guidelines for an intentional model of the first year and to assess the progress in reaching those dimensions. Western continues to work with the Foundation.
Western was one of 19 American colleges and universities selected to participate in a National Learning Communities Project Summer Institute designed to strengthen student outcomes through innovative approaches to college teaching and learning. The first Learning Communities at
Western were formed in Fall 2004.
Western is one of 190 colleges participating in the American Democracy Project (ADP), a national initiative to increase the number of undergraduate students engaged in meaningful civic actions (ADP National website).
Western’s teacher education program was one of only four in the nation, and the only program in Missouri, chosen by the American Association of Colleges of Teacher Education and the Carnegie Foundation as an exemplary program in the areas of assessing student work and using the results to improve program quality. Western continues to rank high in Missouri in teacher preparation
outcomes (Figure 1.12).
In summary, Western is an institution that
continues to serve students, largely of modest
economic means, and to produce high quality
outcomes. It has a statewide mission in
applied learning that is led by strategic planning and grounded in continuous quality improvement.
President James J. Scanlon says, “We at Western have committed ourselves to set the standard for excellence in the development of students, as learners and persons, and in community
leadership, through partnership and service.
We have pursued this vision with determination during the past five years.”