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April 26, 2013
CONTACT: K.E. Schwab

State of the University: President reports SRU seeks excellence

SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. -Cheryl Norton, Slippery Rock University's president, delivered her first State of the University address to faculty Tuesday highlighting the University's long list of accomplishments and calling on everyone involved to "market, market, market - for we have much to say about our excellent academic programs."

In her 40-minute address, "State of the University: Looking Forward," Norton called on faculty members to continue to promote the quality of the SRU campus experience, the work of fellow outstanding faculty and the overall value of a rock-solid education offered by SRU.

"We are continuing to create a caring institution that is a community of lifelong learners connecting with the world; our vision, our Slippery Rock University vision that is our rock-solid education; that is what we are known for; and it is what gives people the opportunity to create a monumental future," she said.

Norton outlined a number of accomplishments and accolades earned in recent months by SRU.

"We are not the only ones that recognize the excellence in this institution. You and I know we have been recognized by others," she said." SRU has recently been cited as a College of Distinction, by The Princeton Reviews' Guide to 322 Green College, named to The 2013 President's Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and recognized by U.S. News and World Report as "one of the top 100 regional universities in the North," among other honors.

She outlined how the University has remained the same during her 10-months as president and how it has, and is, changing.

"There are currently 26 searches under way for new tenure track faculty and 20 full-time, temporary faculty," she said.

She cited a number of campus changes, including the remodeling and expansion of Patterson Hall, design work on the new Performing Arts Center, a new laboratory for health and safety management students and the Phase II opening of the Technology Learning Center in Bailey Library. She noted additional "botoxing" projects for the library, including painting; a new heating/air conditioning system for the Dinger Building; and new offices in Eisenberg Classroom Building would be forthcoming.

She cited new and improved practice rooms in Swope Music Hall and planned new technologies for McKay Education Building.

"A recurring theme, you are going to hear throughout this presentation is that we are acting more and more like a private institution rather than a public institution and much of that is due to reductions in state support," Norton said. "We will have to rely on our own resources to make this institution a better place."

"We are moving forward to make sure that our facilities meet the needs of students," she said.

In discussing academic programs, Norton said, "Our therapeutic recreation department has just been granted accreditation - and is only one of four universities in the country to have this kind of accreditation."

"We are reaching out with new programs and new meet the excellence we expect," she said.

"Our major challenge is to continue to provide a curriculum that is distinctive, provides quality and is agile enough to meet the needs of traditional and non-traditional students. That is a very important aspect," she said.

Norton said SRU's is continuing to attract non-traditional students, those over age 23, adding that enrollment by such students is "growing by leaps and bounds."

She called on the campus to continue to "address the commonwealth needs and support development of educated citizens. We must continue to strive for excellence, identify areas for improvement and address those, and embrace strategies to promote student success. Because the bottom line is that student success is frankly our success. That is what our mission is, that is why we are here - that is what we hope to accomplish," she said.

"Frankly, the reality is students will enroll where they believe their educational needs will be met," Norton said. "It is an incredibly, incredibly competitive market out there, and as state appropriations drop, we are becoming more and more dependent on our enrollment for funding."

She thanked everyone for working to boost enrollment in the coming academic year that begins in August.

Norton showed an overhead slide depicting SRU's enrollment distribution, noting 84 percent of SRU students come from a 100-mile radius of the campus.

She said a bright spot on SRU's enrollment report is in online course enrollment, including summer registration, which showed a 7.2 percent increase and winter session, which recorded a 106 percent increase.

"Those enrolment increases represent a net increase in revenue of $1.7 million for the University," she said.

The president said that while remaining competitive, the quality of incoming students remains high, including their high school grade-point average and their overall SAT scores.

"We will not give up quality for numbers. We will not. We will continue to bring in the best and the brightest students to take in the educational opportunity we have at this institution," she said.

She explained how enrollment affects the budget, noting 70 percent of SRU's revenue comes from tuition and academic fees. The remainder comes for state appropriations, interest income, rental fees and other miscellaneous sources, she said.

In talking about the budget, Norton said, salaries and wages and fringe benefits, require 70 percent of the University's income; utilities, 2 percent; debt transfers, 2 percent; and travel and non-mandatory transfers each represent 1 percent each.

She said in total, the University currently faces a $6.1 million projected deficit for 2013-14, but added the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education board of governors, nor the state legislature have yet set final support figures for the higher education budget for the coming fiscal year.

Norton said she would continue to refine the budget, on both the income and outflow sides in the coming months, but stressed the importance of continuing to market the University and increase enrollment.

"The key to our long-term success, is undoubtedly, we will have to invest money to make money," she said. "We will have to continue high impact practices because these practices retain and graduate our current students; and we will have to see that the curriculum ensure that we provide a distinctive, quality and agile educational experience for our students. It is not good enough to bring students in, if we don't retain them. It is much more effective and efficient to keep them here than to have a revolving door: And, besides, that is not good education."

"A 21st-century curriculum must address student's interest, provide expert discipline and liberal arts knowledge, provide hands-on experience and soft skill development and, where applicable, pre-career and workforce preparation. We have started on this path and must continue our new curriculum development, our online course offerings, respond to the needs of the community and form partnerships with community colleges...and we must the needs of traditional and non-traditional students. But, let's not stop there; let's think more broadly. Let's look at opening new international markets, this is a global society, and we have talked about the need to train our students to be global thinkers," she said.

Slippery Rock University is Pennsylvania's premier public residential university. Slippery Rock University provides students with a comprehensive learning experience that intentionally combines academic instruction with enhanced educational and learning opportunities that make a positive difference in their lives.