SRU bucks enrollment, fiscal challenges
May 18, 2017
SLIPPERY ROCK, Pa. - "Despite concerns many institutions have in the current financial climate, Slippery Rock University is thriving," said Philip Way, provost and vice president for academic and student affairs. "We're in a stronger position than we've ever been because we embraced the challenges facing us and made strategic adjustments to how we deliver value to our students."
According to Way, SRU was able to flourish in a difficult climate for higher education because of a strategic reinvestment in new academic programs, scholarships and by creating a vibrant living and learning environment.
"This has put SRU in a position of strength, allowing it to overcome demographic declines in the number of traditional-age, college-bound students and significant reductions in state appropriations," he said.
The University, Way added, was able to further enhance its standing by focusing on a trio of key areas, including:
- Increasing enrollment while enhancing student quality and diversity
Final enrollment for the Fall 2016 semester reached 8,881, an increase of 3 percent from the previous year and the largest enrollment in the school's 127-year history. While there was growth virtually across the board, including participation in online programs, graduate student enrollment increased 16.5 percent to 1,217, thanks to 475 new students.
The student profile was further enhanced by a freshman class whose average SAT score exceeded 1,000. There were also 216 freshmen from under-represented minority groups, a 17 percent increase.
- Adding new programs to fuel learning
New programs introduced in 2016-17 included undergraduate offerings in petroleum and natural gas engineering; homeland security; corporate security; and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Dance. New graduate degrees included health informatics, physician assistant, public health, music therapy and teaching English to speakers of other languages.
SRU continued its strategy to raise the level of student engagement in learning by providing challenging courses, opportunities for peer learning and faculty-student interaction. The year saw increases in the number of students involved in non-credit activity and study abroad programs; as well as undergraduate scholarship, service learning and other opportunities, including 180 students presenting research or creative activity at the SRU Symposium for Student Research, Scholarship and Creative Achievement, an annual showcase of undergraduate and graduate student work.
Way said the University will continue to expand programs and online learning opportunities that benefit its students and the region's business community while making revisions to the liberal studies program and Universitywide student learning outcomes.
- Maintaining an unwavering focus on student success and wellness
SRU is a leader in Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education for student retention and four-year graduation rates, which at 49.8 percent, ranked first. More than 80 percent of the undergraduates from the Class of 2015 are either employed full-time or attending graduate school full-time, and SRU students' loan default rate of 4.9 percent was the second lowest in the State System.
Another area of focus is the well-being of students and providing a nurturing environment. More than 1,100 students are part of residence life communities; SRU's student health services provided 4,120 hours of direct care; while the Office of Career Education and Development logged more than 2,400 appointments.
Additionally, SRU made continued enhancements in areas of safety, code of conduct, mentoring and serving the needs of students from specific sub-populations.
"Slippery Rock University continues to enhance students' lives and meet the demands of the market, choosing the right programs that best fit new students at our University," said Way. "We're constantly evolving, but we're not abandoning the traditional model of who we are - a provider of quality education as part of a caring community."
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