Ross presents strategic planning goals, retention and graduation rates


Abbie Robinson | Staff Photographer

A report on the second year of Central Michigan University's strategic planning priorities initiatives and metrics showed only 21 percent of incoming freshmen graduate in four years.

University President George Ross briefed the CMU Board of Trustees on performance of last year's goals in the strategic plan and presented goals for 2016. The goals are based on five priorities approved by the board in 2012: student success, research and creative activity, quality faculty and staff, community partnerships and infrastructure stewardship.

"The idea is being able to measure progress, positive or negative, toward our strategic priorities," Ross said. "Each of the 16 major institutional initiatives has divisions that have planning processes and reporting of quantitative and qualitative measures."

By 2019, the university aims to increase freshman to sophomore retention rate to 80 percent, increase the six-year graduation rate to 63 percent and double the number of students taking service-learning courses. Goals are also set to raise external funding for research from $14 million to $25 million, raise annual fundraising revenue from $12.3 million to $23 million and increase CMU's economic impact to $1.1 billion.

The four year graduation rate of first-time, full-time students as stayed at 21 percent since 2011. CMU plans to increase this figure to 25 percent, but did not increase its goal for this academic year.

CMU missed this year's goal to graduate 60 percent of students in six years by 4 percent. Ross said the reason behind the drop has yet to be determined, however one of the cohorts of students counted "had an anomaly." He said the university fully expects that the six-year graduation rate will return to about 59 percent next year.

"What we found after year one was that there were some challenges with the (consistency of) data and how we were reporting and recording," Ross said. "In year two that continues. We're also finding some things that came out of the strategic planning team that we anticipated were annual reports are multi-year reports so the data won't be available each year."

Trustee Sarah Opperman was critical of not increasing the goal for the four-year graduation rate next year.

"We're not showing movement," Opperman said. "If we want to get to 25 percent in five years you don't do that by staying flat."

Ross said there a variety of factors that influence the graduation rate, including finances and class scheduling. He explained that CMU is being realistic about increasing the four-year graduation rate over time.

Ross said CMU needs to do a better job of educating freshmen of their program requirements. He has considered requiring students to sign a major, which could be changed later, so they are put on a graduation track and are connected with advisers.

"There are arguments against that, wanting students to explore more, but my take is that it takes longer to get out," he said.

He shared an anecdote of handing diplomas to former CMU women's basketball players Crystal Bradford, Jas'Mine Bracey and Jessica Green.

"Those three young ladies came to CMU four years ago, played Division I basketball at the highest level and graduated in four years," Ross said. "We talk about a six-year graduation rate. If you can play D-I sports and graduate in four years, I challenge all of us, why can't students (do the same)."

After Central Michigan Life tweeted graduation statistics Thursday morning, some students voiced their criticisms.

The freshman to sophomore retention rate raised from 76 percent to 78 percent this year. The five-year goal is to retain 80 percent of freshmen by 2019. International enrollment increased by 46 percent from last year.

There was a significant decrease in the number of faculty engaged in research and external funding for research. External funding raised for research and creative endeavors was only $10.4 million, about $5 bellow the goal for last year. 

Forty-three percent of faculty were engaged in research, down 12 percent from last year's goal.

"For the size of our institution, we should be doing more," Ross said. "That is complicated by the fact that at the federal level, funding for research has decreased tremendously. The percent of our faculty participating in writing grants went down and that got my attention more. We have to write more and we have to engage more faculty."

CMU was below its fundraising goal by about $2 million, though it increased fundraising revenues by $700,000 from last year. About $8 million in requests have been submitted to foundations and have yet to be answered.

Some of the trustees were skeptical of how the goals have been set. Trustee Tricia Keith encouraged the administration to include them in discussions about the metrics.

"I think there is a collaborative opportunity to educate us better about how we set those," she said. 

Board of Trustees on Twitter

For a live feed of Central Michigan Life's impressions at the Board of Trustees meeting Thursday morning, check us out @CMLife.


About Malachi Barrett

Editor-in-Chief Malachi Barrett is Battle Creek senior majoring in journalism with a minor in ...

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