Although the discussion could be characterized as cordial, questions and concerns about the university’s enrollment management plan dominated Tuesday’s Academic Senate meeting.
The faculty question and answer session came following a presentation on the plan given by Vice President of Enrollment and Student Services Steven Johnson.
Acting as an update on what has been completed thus far and future measures for increasing Central Michigan University’s recruiting scope, the presentation also marked the first time Johnson presented newer aspects of the plan to A-Senate.
Among the questions lobbed at Johnson, senators asked the VP if changes in tuition rates, increased outreach to non-traditional students and region-focused marketing at the state level were aspects of the plan.
Regarding tuition rates, Sen. Melinda Kreth, an English professor, asked whether the college would consider decreasing tuition rates for 100 and 200 level classes to compete with regional community colleges offering the same courses at cheaper prices.
Kreth also advised raising tuition for 300 level and above courses to recoup some of the cost.
“I can’t say we’ve talked that specifically about it,” Johnson said. “We’ve talked about differential tuition by program. I think the discussion has always been ‘how is it going to be perceived by those (who control) state appropriation?’ I think if you’re keeping in touch with historical appropriations, it’s been this horrible balancing act of trying to have the elasticity you need to make decisions about tuition (and) also about maintaining your identity in response to your audience.”
Johnson said some of the tuition discussion is managed through discounting, mainly by using financial aid “to fund those who don’t have the capacity to pay, and to collect from those who do have the capacity.”
Said Johnson: “I’m not saying that’s the way to go, but we need to look at the whole (tuition) equation. We’re also doing something similar to what they have in some departments where you’re locked in at this rate if you do ‘this,’ and that gives some incentive for planning opportunities for students.”
Sen. Sandy Lane, a representative from SGA, mentioned that significant discussions have been had at the student level about a lack of outreach to non-traditional students and wondered if he or anyone at the top were aware of those sentiments.
Johnson said he was not and that he might not be the appropriate person to hear the concerns, but was eager to offer his time one on one with these bodies to understand the issue better.
“I know that Global Campus is very responsive to students, but these are not Global Campus students, these are students who are considered non-traditional but they’re considered in the Mount Pleasant environment,” Johnson told Central Michigan Life. “We need to make sure that we’re responding to that audience as well.”
In terms of reaching out to the rest of the state, Johnson aired an amount of frustration with his resources.
“I understand the perception that Mount Pleasant is unknown, it’s too far,” he said. “I need to understand these different concerns to better position ourselves. I can’t build an Amtrack here. I can’t build an airport. But it’s also a discussion we’ve been having with the city of Mount Pleasant. We have a good business partner in the city. I just think it’s been anecdotal so far as we hear it. In our state is one thing, but I have to know how to sell that to people outside, telling them what Michigan is and that we’re in the middle.”
Johnson’s model for curbing that perception: Officials need to be concerned not only about what the marketing data tells them, but how the campus as a whole makes new students feel.
“We all agree that there are new pieces to admitting kids who want to come here – staging the institution in a different light, making sure we focus on how it looks, the signage,” Johnson said. “Can visiting students and parents find their way around? They have to feel something when they’re here on campus.”