American institutions of higher education operate in a highly complex environment defined chiefly by five pressures: (1) the near certainty of modest growth in total college enrollments in the United States over the next decade; (2) a changing mix of students; (3) growing pressure on colleges and universities to reduce the rate at which they increase tuition and fees; (4) the rise of new pedagogical technologies; and (5) the probable emergence of corporation-funded education centers and higher education competitors. The University anticipates and will respond to these internal and external challenges if it is to thrive during the next decade.
The National Center for Education Statistics has predicted an overall modest increase in higher education enrollment between 2000 and 2013. Total enrollment in higher education will increase 19 percent over that period. Undergraduate enrollment will increase 18 percent, graduate enrollment 19 percent, and professional-degree enrollment (such as our Juris Doctor and Master of Divinity) 27 percent.
The growth in national undergraduate enrollment will be based on a modest increase in the number of high school graduates, projected at 11 percent. Fortunately, key recruiting areas for SMU will experience larger increases in the number of high school graduates than the national average — Texas 19 percent, California 23 percent, and Florida 30 percent.
The state of Texas is in the midst of a demographic transition with important consequences for Texas higher education. Nearly 93 percent of the net additions to the Texas population between 2000 and 2040 will be members of minority groups. As a result, socioeconomic characteristics linked to minority status will create a new set of challenges for higher education in Texas. It is clear that a larger proportion of this growing segment of the population must be enrolled in college if Texas hopes to have an educated workforce.
Since many of these “new” students in Texas will be Hispanic, it is important to highlight programs emphasizing Hispania at SMU such as the Meadows Museum with its renowned collection of Spanish paintings. This historic collection helps to communicate the value the University places on outreach to the Hispanic community.
Over the last decade, SMU has proven its ability to recruit, retain, and graduate minority students. Undergraduate minority enrollment in 2005 was 21 percent in total (6 percent African-Americans, 6 percent Asian-Americans, 8 percent Hispanics, and 1 percent Native Americans). Currently, the six-year graduation rate is approximately 72 percent for majority students, 83 percent for Asian-Americans, 71 percent for African-Americans, and 68 percent for Hispanics. SMU’s successes and challenges in minority recruitment and retention have remained constant in the midst of a consistent minority enrollment over the past 10 years. With these demographic trends, the capacity to recruit and graduate minorities will increase in importance during the implementation of the Centennial Strategic Plan.
During the past 45 years, tuition increases have significantly outpaced both the rate of inflation and the Consumer Price Index. As technology expenses and personnel costs in technical and financial areas have skyrocketed, higher education’s rate of increase has mirrored that of the healthcare industry. The result has been an ongoing debate as to whether colleges and universities may have priced themselves toward the upper limits of what students and their families are willing and able to pay for higher education.
As tuition costs have risen, families and students have come to rely more heavily on loans to meet tuition charges, financing their education increasingly out of future earnings rather than accumulated savings. But their willingness to incur indebtedness for the sake of higher education is not unlimited. In the face of these economic pressures, schools have increased the financial aid available to their students. At the same time, as the percentage of revenues devoted to financial aid increases, the pressure to contain costs or to reduce expenses in other areas also has grown.
Given these circumstances, two effects are predictable and are likely to be dominant in the next several years. First, because growth in both college enrollments and tuition increases is likely to be modest, it can be expected that U.S. colleges and universities will become increasingly deliberate and systematic in their efforts to control costs and increasingly alert to new ways to enhance revenues. Second, it can be expected that students and their families will become more and more concerned about the value added to their lives from higher education. Therefore, the issue of academic quality will become even more crucial as successful institutions focus on cost containment and revenue enhancement.
To improve its competitiveness, SMU must improve its standing in relation to a number of indicators commonly used to rank schools by quality. First, it must increase the national and international recognition of its faculty through research and creative achievement. It also must improve its selectivity in admissions both by increasing the size of its applicant pool and by raising its quality. Similarly, SMU must improve its retention and graduation rates. SMU stands above its state school competitors in both retention and graduation rates, and it compares well with most Texas private institutions on this measure. SMU’s standing on selectivity, retention, and graduation rates, however, does not yet match benchmark schools outside its region, such as Duke, Emory, and Vanderbilt. To maintain its regional appeal and to increase its national and international appeal, SMU must improve in these areas.
Such indicators are themselves functions of several factors, most notably the quality of the education that an institution provides. The most crucial point about SMU’s competitive position is that the institution is well situated to enhance its educational quality, even in a period of financial constraint. As a mid-sized, private university with a strong library system at its foundation, SMU is able to provide a rich array of liberal arts and professional programs at the undergraduate and the graduate levels. All of its constituent schools are in a position to maintain or to enhance their quality at regional, national, and, in some cases, international levels. SMU has a favorable faculty-student ratio (1:12), which enables it to give personal and individualized attention to students beyond the capacity of most regional competitors. Its average class size (72 percent of undergraduate class sections have fewer than 25 students) does not leave its students lost in the crowd. The SMU faculty is committed to superior teaching and maintains an appropriate balance among its responsibilities of teaching, research, and service to the community, slighting none and contributing creatively to each. SMU has all the advantages of its location in Dallas and its surrounding region, which offer a thriving cultural and economic life and which present significant out-of-classroom pedagogical opportunities, such as internships, as part of the collegiate experience. Also important is the fact that the University draws from its Methodist heritage a strong tradition of care for the personal, intellectual, and moral development of its students and for the social and civic well-being of society.
In addition, the University is well situated to respond fully to the striking current developments in the globalization of information and technology. SMU has recently begun to globalize the curriculum, both undergraduate and graduate, through the introduction of new courses and the revision of existing courses, and it is continuing to expand these efforts. In addition, it is internationalizing the student body through foreign language offerings and by providing opportunities for study abroad (approximately 27 percent of undergraduates at SMU study abroad) and by enrolling international students (who currently make up 7.5 percent of the total student body). The recruiting program for foreign undergraduates has significantly increased enrollment from 98 students in 1990 to 309 in 2005. Foreign students accounted for 4.2 percent of the fall 2005 entering class. Within the next five years, foreign enrollment in the entering class should reach six percent, comparable to that of benchmark schools like Duke University and Dartmouth College. With regard to the emergence of the information age and a globalized society, SMU is ready to capitalize on its current position to enhance the University’s educational quality and relative position among its peers.
SMU has recently made major investments in equipping the campus with sophisticated information systems and high-powered computing capacity; it is continuing to replace and to upgrade its information systems for instructional use, research computing, and administrative efficiency. In addition, the University continues to invest in emerging technologies that will allow students and faculty to access a vast array of information. Many of these digital resources will emanate not only from SMU’s rich library collections, but also from organizations and universities throughout the world.
The goals and objectives established for 2006–2015 and the judicious management of related resources have set a course designed to ensure SMU’s continued academic advancement.