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Editorial: Takeaways from this year’s State of the University address

Bradley President Stephen Standifird gave his second State of the University address on Oct. 4, in which he covered topics of finance, enrollment, competition and community initiatives. Here are the most important takeaways from his presentation.

Enrollment

As universities across the country continue to find declining numbers in enrollment, Bradley was no different in 2021-22.

While the national drop remains at 1.5%, the Hilltop finds itself just below that number at 0.5%. This was viewed as something to watch by Standifird but, similar to the financial numbers, he stated the university was still doing okay in this area.

A loss of only five students when comparing this year’s and last year’s first-year enrollment was not alarming, but the university should continue to strive to minimize this number. Investing in students who are currently enrolled should continue to be a priority, but attracting new students to campus needs to be given more attention.

While the first-year enrollment slightly declined, Bradley did enjoy a 31% increase in graduate enrollment.

Finances

Bradley had a net positive income of over $5 million last year, which is good to see. This helps dispel sayings heard around campus that Bradley has no money left over after building the $10 million Business and Engineering Convergence Center (BECC) in 2019.

Times are tough in the world of higher education in the post-pandemic era so any financial gain is worthy of at least a small celebration. Bradley plans on being more aggressive in its budget for the 2022-23 academic year, so that could mean that necessary improvements in staffing, inclusion, diversity and building maintenance could be fulfilled.

National Ranking and Competition

Completing its first year as a professional doctoral granting institution, Bradley saw some desirable outcomes from the University’s newest label.

Bradley has been clear that working towards being nationally recognized as a professional doctoral granting institution was a title that they not only wanted but needed to be able to compete against other comparable private schools in the Midwest. Ranking 166th nationally allows the Braves an advantage over local competing schools such as Illinois State, Valparaiso and Belmont.

Actions

The plan to establish the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies would pay dividends for Bradley students, regardless of how far in their academic journey they are. The Center would help foster the college experience for first-year students and assist undergraduates with research opportunities.

Increasing Bradley’s fiscal strength seems like an obvious plan of action and is no small accomplishment. However, the university should keep in mind that they should do so in a way that would result in more students enrolling at Bradley rather than upcharging current students. The new incentive-based budget is a smart plan on paper, and it will be interesting to see how it will hold up one year from now.

In order to boost Bradley’s slightly-above-par graduation rate, multiple student success resources are in the works. Some of them take the form of week-long camps for underqualified students and an app with student resources, but there could be skepticism on how much of an effect they would make. Bradley has fallen short on promoting a few of their new resources lately, so making sure that students know about the new success plans is paramount.

In the future

As Bradley starts to look further into the future, there are a few things that are at the finish line.

Standifird explained that there was a new staff salary initiative and a creation of a staff council. The initiative will involve an assessment of faculty hour positions and compensation structures, which will be enacted through the current year.

The council will have a say in any changes that will occur in the university. This gives faculty an opinion on what happens to the future of Bradley and their career.

Along with the salary initiative, Bradley is on the hunt for a new Associate Vice President of Advancement. Hiring the new vice president will help give more insight into how the university appeals to future students. A new vice president will also help Bradley become more active in the recruitment process.

Some of these proposed initiatives and budget-related items are not of particular interest to most students at Bradley, but they are important to the future success of the school. Eventually, students and the rest of the Bradley community will feel the trickle-down effect of these new measures should they be implemented, and most signs point toward those effects being positive.

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