We commit to providing our students with a 21st century rigorous curriculum that is composed of the intellectual, creative, cultural, and personal outcomes necessary to advance and excel.
Currently, we are benchmarking and timelining as key variables are in transition. Guidance, data and directions are informed by several key inputs. Enrollment Strategies Committee formed subgroup to suggest recommendation on institutional capacity for various groups. Analysis of data, examinations of current policies and institutional planning tools are helping to forecast and gauge trends. The greatest factor in summer session will be performance funding and the NC Promise funding for summer. We are in the midst of determining modeling of its impact on institutional capacity.
Western Carolina University took several actions to increase and track student diversity. Among these were the waiving of the application fee for all levels (UG and GR) for all 2022 entry terms thus removing the financial barrier to applying. Reconfigured scholarship and aid communication, awarding, packaging in order to positively impact enrollment and diversity.
Added a new undergraduate application avenue (Coalition for College) for the 2022-23 cycle to reduce barriers and enhance DEI. Recalibrated the Enrollment Planning Committee (EPC) to the Enrollment Strategies Committee that incorporates an Enrollment Data and Projections Committee and an EDI Task Team. Collaborated to build new undergraduate admission reports that will launch in 2022-23 and will provide more point-in-time, comparative data. Engaged with the Blue-Ribbon Task Force to inform admissions, enrollment, and strategic planning. Participated in the African American Alumni Association panel discussion and restructured undergraduate admission staffing and strategies to better address and support Honoring Our Promise Strategies and Initiatives.
Of the nine metrics, WCU exceeded UNC System designated goals for three of them and did not meet the goals for six of the metrics. WCU exceeded goals for critical workforce degrees awarded (1,342 vs. goal of 1,312), 5-year graduation rate (64.4% vs. goal of 63.5%) and achievement gaps in undergraduate degree efficiency among male students (25.2 vs. goal of 24.8). WCU did not meet designated goals for low-income enrollments (3,345 vs. goal of 3,602), rural enrollments (4,590 vs. goal of 4,975), low-income completions (970 vs. goal of 1,078), rural completions (1,191 vs. goal of 1,222), undergraduate degree efficiency (25.5 vs. goal of 25.9), and research productivity ($6,075,384 vs. goal of $6,369,161).
We will enrich the student experience through creating intentional cocurricular and curricular programs, which will prepare students to successfully engage in a vibrant, complex, and culturally diverse world.
Catamount Athletics serves as a significant engagement tool for WCU by helping to instill pride in students, faculty, staff, alumni, and community friends. Through collaboration with students on events like the Freshman Run, home tailgating and regional social events with alumni, community events around football games such as EBCI Day, and the utilization of the Southern Conference's ESPN+ contract to highlight our university's academic profile, Catamount Athletics provides unique opportunities that bring the Catamount Family together.
Part of leveraging athletics to instill pride is investing more resources into the department to produce more prideful outcomes. Athletics continues to plan for a significant upgrade to many of its aging facilities. Getting the increase in the student athletic fee passed was an involved process where students, faculty, staff, and friends of the university all came together to support the vision for athletics. Significant fundraising continues to be a priority to complete this plan.
We commit to creating a campus reflective of our core values and we offer curricular and co-curricular educational programs that prepare our students for the diverse world in which they live.
Some of the initiatives designed to build a more diverse and inclusive community involved the launch of a new UG admissions student group (Golden Ambassadors) that focuses on diversity recruitment. The resuming of full-scale open house events that feature diversity collaboration and promotion. The piloting of the Faculty Diversity Officer (FDO) program to develop faculty to serve as peer search committee members with a particular focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and attention to implicit bias that may occur in faculty searches. Also, the Office of the Provost, CFC, Associate Dean of Hunter Library, and Chief Diversity Officer collaborated to establish a DEI Community of Practice to advance inclusive excellence across the university. Lastly, the Associate Dean of Hunter Library, Ms. Shamella Cromartie, supported by the Office of the Provost, and CFC, established the Inclusive Pedagogy Fellows, which paired four WCU faculty with two faculty mentors with expertise in inclusive pedagogy for a year-long program of course redesign with a focus on inclusive teaching best practices.
Through regional and community partnerships, we will be a force for the progress and
growth of Western North Carolina. As an institution dedicated to the overall development
of North Carolina, Western Carolina University serves all of the state with particular
focus on the communities, towns, and cities of the 17 western-most counties of North
Carolina* as well as the Qualla Boundary of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians.
* Buncombe, Cherokee, Cleveland, Clay, Graham, Haywood, Henderson, Jackson, Macon, Madison, McDowell, Mitchell, Polk, Rutherford, Swain, Transylvania, and Yancey
A BSBA in Finance was introduced in the fall for 2021-2022 and several are under development for 2022-23.
The Finish Line Program is WCU's version of the UNC System Office's Partway Home Initiative. It is designed to assist students in finishing their first Bachelor’s degree. It is catered toward both former students and new transfers that may qualify. During the 2021-2022 Academic Year, 22 students graduated through the Finish Line Program (8 students in December and 14 students in May). This year's graduate has pushed the total number of graduates to 147 since Finish Line began in Fall 2015. The Finish Line program at WCU continues to support the System Office's initiative through collaboration and promotion from the Advising Center, Educational Outreach, and Admissions.
WCU resumed outreach and visitation programs that COVID curtailed. In fall 2021, WCU realized gains in the number of transfer students from the NCCC System (709 vs 650), the UNC System (56 vs 55) and out-of-state institutions (227 vs 171). Only students transferring from NC private colleges experienced a decrease (40 vs 48). As a result, total transfer enrollment rebounded (1,032 vs 924). WCU was the overwhelming UNC system school of choice for students from the eight westernmost NC community colleges (WCU: 265; UNCA: 96; ASU: 67; UNCW: 56; UNCC: 54). Given lingering effects of COVID on enrollment and retention coupled with a lean year for NC high school graduates, WCU increased its transfer target and waived the application fee for the 2022 cycle. The Provost Council targeted transfer students in planning meetings, and recalibration of the Enrollment Planning Committee tasked the new Enrollment Strategies Committee (ESC) with transfer-related initiatives. WCU expanded undergraduate distance program offerings for transfer students and NC Promise marketing. Preliminary comparative numbers point to another increase in transfer student enrollment for fall 2022.
We will continue to attract, retain, and promote outstanding faculty and staff while providing valuable scholarship, leadership, and professional development opportunities.
The top institutional legislative priority was salaries for current faculty and staff. To extend this message, University leadership continues to advocate for faculty and staff compensation to key external constituents to the greatest extent possible. Additionally, the University identified faculty and staff salaries as a top institutional priority during the annual budget process. The statewide FY22 and FY23 budgets provided for a 6% across the board increase (over two years) for faculty and staff salaries. Additionally, the FY22 budget included one-time bonuses of $1,000 for all employees with an additional $500 provided for employees making $75,000 or less. To address market competitiveness and retention issues, the FY23 state budget includes a 1% labor market adjustment fund that will be available to UNC System institutions. The UNC System continues to explore benefit options and in FY22 rolled out a new group life offering that is more competitive than the previous offering (on average will be 1/3 less for the same amount of coverage).
For FY22 the University again identified faculty and staff salaries as a top institutional priority. In Spring 2022, the University allocated $1.7M to address critical salary compression, equity, and labor market concerns and implement recommendations put forth by the Standing Committee on Faculty Salaries and the SHRA & EHRA NF Salary Committee. In total, the University allocated $2.1M for university salary actions (excluding promotions). Additionally, for FY23, the University has increased faculty rank promotion amounts by $1,000 (from $4,000 to $5,000 for Asst. to Assoc. and from $6,000 to $7,000 for Assoc. to Full) and implemented a faculty non-tenure track rank/promotion process. The University salary committees continue to meet on a regular basis to identify strategies and present recommendations to University Leadership. Additionally, the University continues to conduct an annual salary review process designed to assess potential market, equity, compression, and inversion issues. The data from this review is shared with university leadership and the respective salary committees to help provide for an informed decision-making process when allocating salary adjustments.
We will focus our priorities on facilities, technology, core resources, and business policies and practices.
With the implementation of the all funds budget required by the System Office and the stabilization of NC Promise Funding, the University is slowly covering more recurring costs that have historically been funded by non-recurring funding. However, there remains a significant portion of recurring costs covered by non-recurring funding. The University was fortunate in FY 2022 to have significant non-recurring funding to cover these costs.
Our budgetary process has become well-known for being transparent, efficient, and highly visible. Units across campus engage in the process each year to submit prioritized one-time and recurring requests for additional funding from their respective divisions. During the current year, to address strategic critical need and enhance sound investment, resources were allocated to address wage compression, maintain employee retention, and provide labor market adjustments to positions across campus.
We will create and promote a shared understanding of WCU's future around our areas of distinction, student support, and faculty and staff initiatives.
The Provost and Chief of Staff led a campus task force in Spring 2022 to revise the University's mission/vision statement (last updated in 2014) to clarify and reinforce WCU's role as a regional university with a commitment to access and affordability. Those themes are now prominently featured in WCU's mission (https://www.wcu.edu/discover/about/mission-vision.aspx) that was endorsed by its trustees and approved by the UNC Board of Governors in July 2022.
Additionally, University Communications and Marketing continues to feature NC Promise, as a marquis feature of the University's value proposition, in marketing and advertisements across the region and state, with particular prominence in Asheville, Charlotte, and other population centers.
The Chancellor also continues to represent WCU as a thought leader on higher education affordability in various venues. For example, she will be a featured panelist on affordability in higher education at the ElevateNC Cohort convening in Asheville in August sponsored by the Hunt Institute.