Provost calls for faculty suggestions for efficient university

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck

Provost Gayle Davis speaks on Friday afternoon.

Jessica Hollenbeck

GVL / Jessica Hollenbeck Provost Gayle Davis speaks on Friday afternoon.

Lizzy Balboa

About 100 Grand Valley State University faculty members attended a forum hosted by Provost Gayle Davis on Friday to offer suggestions to ensure the success of the university in light of negative public attitudes toward higher education, greater competition in student demographics and low university funding.

“We’re trying to forecast where our problems might begin to appear as various related topics come together to create a more difficult environment for us,” Davis said.

The provost hosted the forum as a follow-up to meetings she had with each college at the beginning of the school year.

“As we remember then, we were talking about a number of things that have kind of coalesced recently to create some concern in higher education and at Grand Valley,” she said. Davis requested ideas from faculty members of how the university can best move forward “to make more obvious the very good value and good, excellent education we offer here in the midst of the sort of chaotic education conversation going on.”

Davis said higher education is often criticized for being overfunded and under-accountable, not preparing students for the right jobs and offering degrees that are too time-consuming and expensive.

“A lot of universities are undersold in this conversation,” she said.

The second area of concern was GVSU’s competition in particular demographics, which has been affected by the growing appeal of cheap online courses.

“That points us to a basic end of the monopoly of traditional higher education on expertise credentialing,” Davis said. “That whole combination of things between additional competition for our students, the changing demographic, the attitudes toward high education, that combination of things means that the people are looking for alternatives to get where they want to be, alternatives to traditional higher education.”

The provost said she doesn’t mean GVSU courses need to move online, but that the university needs to recognize the changing demographic and needs of students, especially as they become more of non-traditional age.

“There are adults and veterans we need to think about, their next steps in life,” she said. “There’s going to be a lot of mix in student body in places like Grand Valley that we haven’t seen before.”

The university is looking to offer students what they want while retaining the quality of a classroom education, Davis said.

Finally, she discussed the issue of GVSU funding and methods to combat the low amount allocated by the government. The group took a look at a number of factors the university will address to increase revenue, including retention rate of freshmen.

“Our retention rate is very gradually going backwards, going the wrong direction,” Davis said. “In fact, right now we’re in the same place approximately as we were in 2004.”

Another area of interest is the efficient use of GVSU’s resources.

Joe Godwin, associate vice president for Academic Affairs, presented statistics to highlight the current areas of efficiency for GVSU. One particular area addressed was course cost versus course revenue.

Godwin’s charts showed how many students are needed in each class to break even financially. More program courses required more money than they generated in student enrollment.

Some professors offered suggestions such as better advertisement on social media to increase program enrollment and generate a greater overall revenue for the university. Other professors suggested offering faculty incentives for improving interest in their courses.

Faculty members with further recommendations can contact the provost at [email protected]

[email protected]