A Message from the President
September 20, 2010 - LA GRAD Act, Campus Alignment
Act 741 of the 2010 session of the Louisiana Legislature, commonly referred to as the LA GRAD Act, represents legislation that will have a significant impact on Southeastern and all institutions of higher education in Louisiana. In exchange for institutions committing to six-year performance agreements, the Act provides certain operational autonomies, including limited authority to increase tuition.
Our participation in the GRAD Act was approved at the August meeting of the University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors. We have been working in conjunction with the System Office to develop and refine proposed performance targets to be included in Southeastern's GRAD Act performance agreement, which still must receive final approval by the Louisiana Board of Regents.
Our success in meeting the performance expectations set out in the GRAD Act is essential in order to maintain the autonomies provided by the Act, including tuition authority. Accordingly, it is extremely important that all departments and units align activities and initiatives with the performance expectations stipulated in the GRAD Act legislation as described below:
Multiple performance measures included in the Act focus on increasing student success, including increasing the IPEDS 6-year cohort graduation rate, first-to-second and second-to-third year student retention rates, number of program completers and award productivity (ratio of degrees awarded to annual full-time equivalent enrollment). In addition, there is a requirement that we continue to devise and implement policies, practices and initiatives, such as partnerships with area high schools, that foster ongoing improvement in student success.
Articulation and Transfer
The Act also includes performance expectations focused on increasing articulation and transfer of students between community and technical colleges and our university. For example, the Act stipulates that universities should implement higher admission standards in order to help improve the retention and progression of students. We are also to provide feedback to community colleges on the performance of associate degree transfer students. Finally, we are to develop and implement referral agreements with community and technical colleges to facilitate enrollment of students who fail to meet our admission standards.
Responsiveness to Workforce and Economic Development Needs
The Act includes a number of stipulations to help ensure institutions are addressing regional and state workforce and economic development needs. For example, institutions are expected to prioritize academic programs that address critical workforce needs and/or produce significant numbers of completers. In addition, institutions are expected to increase distance education courses and programs.
Efficiency and Accountability
Under the provisions of the Act, institutions are expected to implement a number of changes to increase efficiency and accountability. For example, remedial course work at four-year institutions must be eliminated if community college services are available to students. Likewise, four-year institutions are to eliminate associate degree programs which will instead be offered at community colleges. In addition, non-resident tuition rates must be increased. Finally, institutions must designate centers of excellence.
We are fortunate that the performance expectations stipulated in the GRAD Act legislation are consistent with Southeastern's long-standing strategic priorities. In many cases, we have already implemented multiple initiatives associated with these expectations and are making good progress.
However, while we have seen improvement in recent years in our student retention, progression and graduation rates, these measures remain well below our ultimate goal to achieve results consistent with our peer institutions across SREB states. And, while we have implemented a number of actions in recent years that have begun to yield results, more must be done.
As I stated earlier in this communication, the GRAD Act directly links our authority to charge higher tuition to our meeting higher performance expectations. Everyone is well aware of the magnitude of reductions in our State appropriation in recent months and the magnitude of potential additional budget reductions in the months ahead. Our ability to charge higher tuition rates over the next several years is critical to the future viability of our institution, providing us with a mechanism by which we can rebuild operating resources to an appropriate level.
Achievement of the requisite performance expectations by our university is only possible if the success of our students is everyone's focus. All faculty and staff in every area of our institution can and must play a role in helping to ensure that students who enroll at Southeastern have the greatest possible chance to earn a degree in a timely manner. While this has always been our over-arching goal at Southeastern, the GRAD Act legislation now requires that we achieve consistent progress demonstrated through specific performance measures.
I have asked each administrator with a reporting line to the President, including our four vice presidents, to work with all units in their respective areas to develop specific action plans addressing relevant components of the GRAD Act.
I look forward to reviewing these plans in the near future.