SOUTH BEND--About 26 percent of students who enroll at Indiana University South Bend earn a bachelor’s degree within six years.
That’s a statistic that doesn’t meet the standards of new IUSB Chancellor Terry Allison and many community leaders.
“That’s just not acceptable,” said Allison, who became chancellor July 1.
With fall classes at the region’s largest public university starting Monday, Allison’s top goals include improving the campus retention and graduation rates.
Only about 63 percent of IUSB students enrolled in fall 2011 returned to campus in fall 2012. “We’ve been hovering at a 60 to 65 percent return rate for quite some time,” he said.
“We appear to grade very rigorously, but we certainly need to strengthen our ability to succeed,” Allison said in a Tribune interview.
He’s spent most of his eight weeks on the job meeting people on campus and in the community, assessing IUSB’s strengths and planning for the future.
“I’d like to see very strong liberal arts and sciences at this campus,” Allison said, but he’s also exploring the idea of new degree programs in advanced manufacturing and additional health degree programs, both linked to potential future jobs in the region. An executive MBA program, with courses on weekends, also is a possibility.
He’s spent much of his time meeting leaders of other area colleges, local school superintendents, area mayors, representatives of the St. Joseph County Chamber of Commerce and leaders in Elkhart, where IUSB offers classes in a downtown building. He’s also working closely with the IUSB chancellor’s advisory board, a 24-member board of residents who help set priorities for the campus.
With the regional economy gradually improving, IUSB is expecting an enrollment decline this fall of about 5 percent since last fall, to a little more than 8,000 students.
IUSB’s 2012 fall enrollment was 8,490 students, the second-largest in IUSB’s history. The all-time fall record was in 2010, when 8,590 students were enrolled.
An enrollment decline means a smaller budget. IUSB will take steps to reduce spending, including not filling some jobs that currently are vacant, Allison said.
IUSB must prepare a new strategic plan that will lead the institution to 2020, the bicentennial anniversary of Indiana University’s founding.
“Part of that will be an academic master plan. I want to get a sense from major employers if there are critical gaps we need to fill,” Allison said, noting about 70 percent of IUSB graduates continue to live and work in the Michiana area.
Some students who apply to IUSB don’t score well enough on entry tests to immediately enroll in freshman classes, and are required to take noncredit remedial courses. Several years ago, the state mandated that Ivy Tech Community College take on most of the remedial course teaching for Indiana’s four-year public institutions. As a result, few remedial offerings are available at IUSB.
Allison is considering creating some pilot freshman courses with mandatory supplemental instruction periods. For example, a three-credit math course might add two hours of zero-credit laboratory work required for that course. The supplemental instruction would improve students’ academic performance and link them more closely to the campus, the chancellor said.
Allison said he’s had experience with such programs at other colleges where he’s worked, and found such an approach beneficial.
Students couldn’t be charged extra tuition for the two hours a week of zero-credit work, but it would be an additional expense for the campus in terms of paying graduate students or adjunct instructors to teach those sections, the chancellor said. “It winds up being an investment in student success that really pays off, and it would reduce the loss of students,” he said.
Because of the cost, such an effort can’t be launched campus-wide immediately, but Allison would like to start a pilot program soon.