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Raises and retention top topics at Fall Convocation

8/27/2002
August 28, 2002

Employee salary increases remain the top spending priority of President Sherry Hoppe.

Hoppe announced at the Fall Convocation that employees will receive an across-the-board increase of 3 percent effective Jan. 1, 2003. This includes 2 percent provided by legislative appropriations for 2002-03 and an extra 1 percent funded internally by the University.

The university also has requested approval from the TBR to provide for an additional 3 percent pool of funds that will be applied to a new equity pay plan. The amount of an individual employee's increase would depend on how far his or her salary is from the established target salary in the new equity plan.

If approved, the equity increases would average 3.4 percent for faculty, 2.9 percent for support staff, 2.49 percent for professional staff and 1.3 percent for administrators.

Members of the TBR will consider the proposal in September. If approved, equity raises would be retroactive to July 1, 2002, and be included in October or November paychecks.

The availability of funds for salary increases was just one positive note in Hoppe's Fall Convocation address. The University's retention of previous funding levels--after months of threatened cuts--was another.

Despite positive news on the budget front, the University still faces significant challenges. Key issues outlined by Hoppe included the upcoming Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) self-study, the need for a new and improved service culture, unsatisfactory levels of student retention, likely changes in funding and the restructuring of the Developmental Studies Program and academic departments. Enrollment is also an issue.

Despite average enrollment increases of 3 percent annually for the last three years, the University still falls below its peak enrollment in 1992. “We're down a thousand students from 10 years ago,” Hoppe said.

Part of the decline is due to changes at the APSU Center @ Fort Campbell, where ongoing deployments and the EArmyU program continue to deflate enrollment, not just at Austin Peay but at every on-post institution.

Drops in FTE are also the result of the less-than-full course load favored by many students. Recognizing that many young adults are self-supporting and that employment of more than 20 hours per week can prevent students from carrying a full course load, Hoppe said, “We do our students who don't have outside obligations a disservice if we don't encourage them to graduate in four years.”

Convincing students of the wisdom of assuming larger course loads not only helps the student, Hoppe noted--allowing them to spend less money on tuition and to enter the work force sooner--it also helps the University. “If just half of the students who enrolled for 12 hours in Fall 2001 would carry 16 hours, we would receive $650,000 more in formula funding,” she said.

Reporting unacceptable losses of students, particularly between the freshman and sophomore years, Hoppe called retention “a major concern.”

“If you look at our full-time student retention rates, Austin Peay has had a steady downward trend. Do we know why? No. Is our diminishing emphasis on service part of it? Perhaps.”

In response to anecdotal evidence that student service may be less than ideal, Dr. Jennifer Meningall, vice president for student affairs, will lead a committee to study the University's “service culture,” Hoppe said. Other committees will study the role of liberal arts at the University, develop a “quality enhancement plan” (part of the SACS review process) and explore the value of forming “learning communities” on the campus.

Reporting other outcomes of THEC and TBR decisions, Hoppe noted that no enrollment cap will be imposed on Austin Peay in 2002-2003, at least for now, state appropriations for athletics will continue at current levels this year and associate degree programs at the APSU Center @ Fort Campbell will be retained.

Remedial programs at the University will be discontinued. The Developmental Studies Program likely will be changed to include computer-assisted or Web-based classes.

Hoppe noted that the University is meeting or exceeding its affirmative action goals for employees. “Seven percent of faculty, 20.5 percent of professional staff and 13.64 percent of the administrative staff are African American,” she said.

Among other good news Hoppe shared with those in attendance: the University will offer more than $88,000 in new scholarships, $100,000 in new library funds and $600 of professional development funds for each full-time employee.

“We're in better shape now than this institution has been for a long time,” Hoppe said.

In closing the Convocation ceremony, Hoppe reminded those attending of the noble mission in which each one is involved. “Our job is to enlarge the lives of our students,” she said, “and in the process, we too are enlarged.”