Ball State Board of Trustees discusses decreased freshmen enrollment, Brown Family Amphitheater budget

<p>Ro-Anne Royer Engle, Ball State vice president for student affairs, presents fall 2021 enrollment numbers with Paula Luff, vice president for enrollment, planning and management at the Board of Trustees meeting in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Oct. 1, 2021. Though freshman enrollment decreased by about 8 percent, the share of students of color and of socioeconomic diversity increased. <strong>Grace McCormick, DN</strong></p>

Ro-Anne Royer Engle, Ball State vice president for student affairs, presents fall 2021 enrollment numbers with Paula Luff, vice president for enrollment, planning and management at the Board of Trustees meeting in the L.A. Pittenger Student Center Oct. 1, 2021. Though freshman enrollment decreased by about 8 percent, the share of students of color and of socioeconomic diversity increased. Grace McCormick, DN

Ball State’s Board of Trustees considered reasons for about an 8 percent decrease in freshman enrollment for the 2021-22 school year at its meeting Oct. 1. Paula Luff, vice president for enrollment, planning and management, said students weren’t able to visit campus in-person due to the COVID-19 pandemic when deciding whether to enroll for the fall.

Indiana has been experiencing decreased total enrollment in higher education throughout the past five years. Of the students who were accepted and enrolled at Ball State for fall 2021, a higher percentage of people of color and Pell Grant recipients make up the new freshman class. 

To recruit current high school students to apply to Ball State, Luff said the university will implement a Common Application by 2023 and increase its social media presence to expand the reach of campaigns.

Ro-Anne Royer Engle, vice president for student affairs, also announced the Office of Admissions is hiring six new positions including a director of communications strategy, marketing content specialist, Latinx recruiter, assistant director of orientation, undergraduate Slate coordinator and a financial aid associate director of systems and technology.

Trustees also heard from Alan Finn, vice president for business affairs and treasurer, about the bids on the Brown Family Amphitheater. The original budget of $3.15 million was approved in December 2020. However, the project exceeded its original budget by about $1.5 million.

Supply chain issues have made completing the amphitheater difficult, Finn said. Construction is expected to be completed in spring 2022.

“There’s been product shortages, there’s been pricing increases and there’s been labor shortages, so it’s possible that some of these are short-term impacts,” Finn said. “We’ve been sort of rebasing on what the cost of some of these things are going to be.”

Despite the issues, Finn said this is the “right time” to begin constructing the amphitheater. 

The trustees also announced an exit survey designed to collect feedback from students who transfer or choose not to return to the university. The university has a contract with HelioCampus, Inc., a company that analyzes data collected by higher education institutions.

“The data is there, and it’s a matter of organizing them into appropriate reports that will guide the decision-making,” said Susana Rivera-Mills, provost and executive vice president for academic affairs. “HelioCampus will definitely come in and complement what we’re already doing, but take us to that next level so that we can be very focused and very specific in what we’re going to do next.”

Rivera-Mills said the data collected by the university and analyzed by HelioCampus will be used to put together initiatives that will support students during their first six weeks on campus. 

During the Academic and Student Affairs Committee meeting, Paaige Turner, dean of the College of Communication, Information and Media (CCIM) announced the Department of Journalism is being renamed to the School of Journalism and Strategic Communication. The Department of Telecommunications is also being renamed to the Department of Media.

“These visionary innovations reflect what we have always done and will always do to prepare our diverse students for a fulfilling career and a meaningful life,” a video presented at the meeting featuring multiple current students said. “Our college has been, and always will be, about passion, purpose and progress because in CCIM, we fly.”

Turner also said CCIM will begin a three-year marketing campaign aimed at spreading awareness about the value of CCIM degrees to new students.

The Board of Trustees also heard a Muncie Community Schools (MCS) presentation from MCS board president James Williams, Director of Public Education and CEO Lee Ann Kwiatkowski and Dean of Ball State’s Teachers College Anand Marri. Williams said MCS’ enrollment has increased for the first time since the 2006-07 school year.

MCS has also recently distributed salary raises and bonuses to its teachers, and launched an MCS–Ball State Connections program that pairs each college within Ball State with an MCS school.

“Since our university’s historic and innovative partnership with MCS started in July 2018, there have been many positive outcomes taking place in our city’s public schools,” said Ball State President Geoffrey Mearns said. “These outcomes — from stabilized enrollment, to increased pay for teachers and staff to maintaining a balanced budget — demonstrate that MCS remains on a positive trajectory of improvement and that we are building a bright future for the children of Muncie and our community.”

Finally, Mearns reflected on the state of the university’s vaccination rates. He said, as of the week of Sept. 27, more than 75 percent of full-time employees have reported they are fully vaccinated and about 70 percent of students in on-campus classes, including more than 75 percent of those living in residence halls, have reported they are fully vaccinated.

“It is because of our high vaccination rates and their collective compliance with our university’s mask protocol, and our other health and safety protocols, that we have been able this fall to provide a vibrant, on-campus experience for our students, faculty and staff,” Mearns said.

The next Board of Trustees meeting is scheduled for Dec. 17.

Contact Mackenzie Rupp with comments at msrupp@bsu.edu or on Twitter @kenzieer18. Contact Grace McCormick with comments at grmccormick@bsu.edu or on Twitter @graceMc564.

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