Texas Wesleyan President Frederick Slabach hosted the first 2020 Town Hall meeting of 2018 on Tuesday afternoon in the Baker Building.
The meeting focused on how the university plans to increase enrollment through academic improvement and campus renovations; the university budget was also mentioned.
The meeting opened with Slabach introducing Dr. Heidi Taylor, who talked about Wesleyan’s new Family Nurse Practitioner program.
“We started this past January with 16 students,” said Taylor, the dean of Health Professions. “We’re very pleased; it’s more than we anticipated, and we actually have three out-of-state students.”
The program offers some different dimensions not offered by other universities and it’s online, Taylor said. The program also focuses on how to make sure students take care of their own well-being.
“We want our students to be treated the same way we want them to treat their patients,” Taylor said.
The Graduate School of Health Professions is the largest graduate school on campus with the mission to “offer elite first-choice health professions graduate programs,” Taylor said. The school is planning to continue its expansion in 2019.
Slabach said Wesleyan has been increasing in graduate and domestic enrollment; however, enrollment is still projected to be declining in the fall 2018.
“We anticipate having to cut $2.9 million from our operating budget for next year,” Slabach said, “primarily because of the declining international enrollment here at the university and increasing costs of certain items that we’ve got very limited control.”
One of the causes for the drop in international enrollment is the loss of the Saudi Arabian Program, Slabach said, which brought in a lot of students paying full tuition costs. A lot of domestic students have discounted tuition because of merit and need.
“As a result of that our full fall enrollment is actually down three percent,” Slabach said, “even though our domestic enrollment is up, and our grad enrollment is up.”
Slabach also said revenue was being lost with the credit hour block rate because students are taking more hours than anticipated and with study abroad programs in the spring versus summer. The university is talking with all departments to see where temporary budget cuts can be made.
“All of those things combined have created a temporary trough,” Slabach said. “The first question is, where are the cost cuts coming from and how to grow our way out of this situation. In terms of cost cuts, we’re committed to looking at every single budget line in the university under a microscope. We’re going to be looking at every possible way to cut costs and still maintain quality for our academic programs.”
Dr. Carl Smeller, associate professor of English and humanities, faculty chair, said it was sad to see the loss of the spring study abroad programs.
“The change will detract from both the faculty and students,” Smeller said. “They were great experiences for me and I think for the students. It’s unfortunate that it has to be like that, but obviously if we’re losing money on that we can’t continue to do that.”
The study abroad programs will go back to summer classes only, Slabach said.
Michael Gatton, associate director of Career Services, thought the budget was the most important thing he learned at the meeting.
“(I thought) learning about the budget process and learning what the university is planning to do to address budget concerns (is the most important thing mentioned),” Gatton said. “I like how he mentioned what we’re doing and what is our way out.”
The next 2020 Town Hall meeting will be April 17 during free period in the Baker Building.