Stony Brook University unveiled the preliminary details of its SUNY Excels Performance Improvement Plan on Friday, September 18 with highlights that included increasing enrollment, completions, graduation rates, research expenditures, fundraising and diversity.
“They said at the board of trustees resolution that this is not a measurement of one institution against another, but rather an institution against itself over time,” Braden Hosch, assistant vice president for institutional research, planning and effectiveness said.
Stony Brook University is looking to increase enrollment from 25,272 this fall to 26,394 by 2020. The university also wants to raise completions from slightly above 6,600 to 7,500, and the four-year, full-time, first-time student graduation rate from 51-percent, as calculated by the university, to 60-percent.
“That actually derives from a commitment President Stanley made to President Obama at the White House to increase the graduation rate of our students,” Hosch said. Increasing the graduation rate is “probably the most challenging” goal, said Hosch to a Press reporter after the presentation.
The university is also projecting a 3-percent increase in research spending to just over $190 million, according to the Performance Plan. Other goals do not have percentages tied to them. Increasing faculty, student and staff diversity was a key point, but Hosch said no specific projections were established.
Stony Brook University’s operating budget shifted from a formula based on enrollment to one based on performance, according to Governor Cuomo’s 2015-2016 Executive Budget. The budget also includes a 10-percent withholding of state support, or according to President Stanley’s report, approximately $15 million for Stony Brook University, pending the completion of the Performance Plan.
The state established 17 different indicators with five goals and metrics attached to those indicators, Hosch said. The five major goals are: access, completion, success, inquiry and engagement.
Indicators that fall under access include measurements on whether students are getting Pell Grants, the university’s Accelerated College Education (ACE) program, which allows high school students to earn college credits and currently serves around 2,000 students; and the number of New York State residents served by SUNY.
SBU is committed to keeping our proportion of New York state residents “not dropping below 70-percent,” Hosch said.
Completions includes New York State Chancellor Nancy Zimpher’s goal of raising SUNY completion from 93,000 to 150,000 by 2020. SBU is not increasing its proportional share of that, Hosch said. Completion also includes metrics from the Student Achievement Measure.
“It takes a look at not just whether students started from an institution and graduated from that same institution in a period of time, but they also take a look to see whether that student transferred and graduated from another institution,” Hosch said.
SBU’s percentage of first-time, full-time students that started in fall of 2008 and graduated within four years was 47-percent, according to data from SAM.
Under success, several indicators are grouped together including applied learning, multicultural experiences and student support. “In terms of metrics, those are not yet formulated,” Hosch said. “It does include things like internships, research and civic engagement.”
Success also includes financial literacy. The state measures this using the cohort default rate, which is the rate students do not pay back their student loans. SBU’s rate is well below the national average, Hosch said. But that “doesn’t necessarily tell you a student is financially literate.”
Non-graduates, independent students, Pell recipients, low income students and transfer students all were at a much higher risk for defaulting, according to data released this year by SBU’s Office of Institutional Planning and Effectiveness.
Forty-two percent of bachelor’s recipients graduated with debt, but that number sharply rises to 80-percent if the student was a Pell grant recipient. Thirty-percent of graduates who did not receive a Pell Grant, which is for low-income students, graduated from SBU with debt between $20,000 and $29,000, according to the same data.
“The indicators may have a title but not necessarily the same meaning,” Hosch said.
Inquiry includes total sponsored activity with metrics tied to the total dollar amount going to the Stony Brook Research Foundation. It also includes courses with hands-on research, scholarship, discovery and innovation. “It makes perfect sense for us as a research university,” Hosch said.
Engagement includes alumni and philanthropic support and economic impact. No metrics were provided for economic impact, but SBU was asked to provide a plan for economic development.
SBU was also asked to arrive at a list of peer and aspirational institutions. The aspirational institutions’ “standard measures, in terms of things like graduation rates and research are much higher than ours are. They do more volume and have higher grad rates, so we’d like to be more like them,” Hosch said.
These aspirational institutions include University of California-Santa Barbara, University of Florida, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, University of Virginia and University of Wisconsin-Madison.
Peer institutions include Purdue University, University at Buffalo, University of Connecticut, University of Maryland-College Park and University of Massachusetts-Amherst.
In terms of how SBU intends to achieve the goals laid out in the Performance Plan and become more like the University of Virginia, Bosh said, “We do have some underlying material that we are preparing that’s still in draft form.”
The university also has not yet decided whether to make the Performance Improvement Plan publicly accessible, Hosh said.
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