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TCU sets goals to raise test scores, reputation, enrollment

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Photo courtesy of TCU

Photo courtesy of TCU

Higher expectations in test scores and larger enrollment numbers were two initiatives announced as part of the university’s Vision in Action plan by Chancellor Victor Boschini in a campus-wide email sent Tuesday.

The Board of Trustees set the target average SAT score for entering freshmen at 1200 on a 1600-point scale and the target average ACT score at 27, Boschini wrote in the email.

According to the email, the current average SAT score on a 1600-point scale for entering freshmen is 1175 with an average ACT score of 26.7.

Boschini said in an interview Tuesday afternoon that the board considered trends over the last five years in setting the new standards and still believe that the standard will need revision in the coming years if trends continue to rise.

The new 10,000-student enrollment ceiling is close to the 9,518 students already enrolled at the university, but Boschini said that while he cannot predict the future, he did not believe that the number of students would ever exceed 10,000.

“Our goal is to have 8,500 undergraduate students and 1,500 graduate students,” Boschini said. “Once you get bigger than that, it changes the culture of the school.”

Boschini wrote that in recent years, the enrollment goal has been to have 1,600 incoming freshmen, although the actual enrollment exceeded 1,800 for three consecutive years.

The email also covered additional topics from student-to-teacher ratios to the size and expected evolution of the campus. He also discussed increases in scholarships, financial aid and the campus’ goals for the future.

When considering making changes at the university, the Board of Trustees considers peer universities that have the highest number of cross applications with TCU, such as Vanderbilt, Tulane, Baylor and SMU, Boschini said.

He wrote that the university would continue to focus on “taking bright students with uncommon potential and transforming them into ethical leaders who impact the world through research, scholarship and creative activity of high quality.”

Boschini and Provost Nowell Donovan plan to speak at the Faculty Senate meeting on March 1 to discuss the changes mentioned in the email, and Boschini will follow that appearance with a campus-wide town hall meeting on March 7 in the Brown-Lupton University Union.

Campus-wide email sent Tuesday morning at 9:00 a.m.: 

Dear Campus Community,

Over the past six years, guided by our strategic plan Vision in Action, Texas Christian University has experienced unbelievable momentum. I have included a video that can be found here
http://www.youtube.com/user/TCU?feature=mhee#p/u/6/K-4p5FLG3nE so that you may see some of our many accomplishments. Among the highlights:
·        A multitude of new scholarships and endowed chairs/professorships
·        A completely transformed physical campus
·        An all-time high for applications, with more than 19,000 students applying for last fall’s incoming class
·        Unprecedented success with The Campaign for TCU, raising more than $415 million to-date, including $95.7 million toward a $100-million scholarship initiative
·        New institutes, programs and partnerships that offer great cultural experiences and enable faculty and students to find solutions for complex issues
·        Recognition by U.S. News & World Report as a top 20 up-and-coming university

However, there is still more work to be done to make TCU an even better TCU. As we look toward our future, we must consider our academy of tomorrow and how we can become a truly great national university.  I am confident we can do this while holding fast to our mission: To educate ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community.

Following the direction mapped out by the latest phase of Vision in Action, our Board of Trustees, led by Chairman Clarence Scharbauer, III, has charged us to move forward boldly to address three key strategic areas as follows:

TCU’S ACADEMIC PROFILE and REPUTATION
TCU will gain recognition as a great national university by maintaining our historic character as a person-centered, residential, liberal arts school rather than by changing our identity. Our goal remains focused on taking bright students with uncommon potential and transforming them into ethical leaders who impact the world through research, scholarship and creative activity of high quality. This will enhance the scholarly reputation of students and faculty alike.

Clearly, our entering undergraduate students over the last six years have been smart and talented and are sure to make a difference in the world.  Today’s average SAT score (on the 1600-point scale) for entering undergraduate TCU students is 1175. Our average ACT score is 26.7. The vision approved by the Board of Trustees sets the target average SAT score at 1200, and the target average ACT score at 27. These average scores will lift our reputation in higher education.

As a person-centered university, we must fortify the teacher/scholar model, a TCU hallmark.  One way this University changes lives is by providing a student-centered environment where faculty serve as teachers, scholars and mentors. Building and sustaining such relationships requires a low student-to-faculty ratio.  Currently, this ratio is 13.6:1.  Our goal, as approved by the Board, is to maintain a ratio that is better than 14:1.

To further build our academic quality, we need to strengthen targeted programs over the next several years, making significant investments in personnel, program expansion, support, services and facilities. As is common in dynamic settings such as ours, there is a likelihood that many other opportunities will develop beyond those that are listed below. However, our Board believes we must be strategic with our resources and as such, focus most intensely on these projects in the years immediately ahead:

Harris College of Nursing & Health Sciences: We will meet the needs of current students and faculty in this college.  The various academic programs in this college are among the fastest growing on campus, reflecting society’s critical need for new professionals in all of these areas.

Neeley School of Business: We will strengthen all programs in the Neeley School. Neeley is growing in national prominence. For example, U.S. News & World Report ranks our business school fourth in the nation for MBAs with the Most Financial Value at Graduation.

Mary Couts Burnett Library: We will reconstruct the library in its current footprint, repurposing the building to accommodate the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s students.

The TCU Energy Institute: We must continue to invest in the Energy Institute as energy policy and production become increasingly critical. This institute offers a definitive “seize the moment” opportunity.

John V. Roach Honors College: The Honors College provides extensive opportunities for excellence and attracts students who raise TCU’s academic profile and contribute significantly to the intellectual life of the campus.

IDEAL SIZE and BALANCE FOR TCU
The second critical issue is finding TCU’s ideal size and balance.  Enrollment drives the financial long-term stability of any modern university.  Now is the time to cement what has been happening to us by good fortune and hard work over the last six years, while retaining TCU’s unique character.

Over the past six decades, TCU’s total enrollment has increased slowly and steadily, reaching 9,518 in the fall 2011 semester.  While our enrollment goal in recent years has been 1,600 incoming freshmen, actual enrollment has exceeded 1,800 for three consecutive years. In addition, the vital freshman-to-sophomore retention rate has steadily improved to 87 percent.

The Board of Trustees consequently has approved a targeted total enrollment ceiling of 10,000, with a mix of 8,500 undergraduates and 1,500 graduate students. At this size, the University can continue to maintain a low student-to-faculty ratio and provide the personalized TCU experience and the fulfillment of the TCU Promise that so defines us.

In addition to size, we must also consider the right undergraduate student balance. It is our intent to maintain TCU’s character while at the same time continuing to work toward a more diverse environment reflective of the world in which our graduates will live, work, play and raise families.  Consequently, the Board of Trustees has approved moving toward:
·        A mix of 60 percent of undergraduates from Texas and 40 percent from out-of-state
·        A 50/50 mix of undergraduate male and female students
·        An ethnically diverse mix of undergraduates

Over the past six years, Athletics also helped expand the reach and recognition of our University. As such, we must continue to wisely invest in both facilities and sports programs to maintain our competiveness as we move to the Big 12.

CREATING the OPTIMAL CAMPUS ENVIRONMENT
The last strategic issue the Board of Trustees approved is creating an optimal campus environment.

First, we plan to optimize use of current campus facilities through:
·        More efficient use of classroom space
·        Creation of more faculty office space within the colleges and schools
·        Creation of flexible interdisciplinary space
·        Continued emphasis on facilities that ensure the vibrancy of student life

Second, we intend to create an Intellectual Commons on the east side of campus that will include facilities such as the repurposed library and others to create a more vibrant academic setting. The impact of the Intellectual Commons will be as transformational for academics as the Campus Commons currently is for our residential campus.

Finally, over the next 10 years, we intend to house every undergraduate on campus, as long as there is a demand for the full residential experience. We intend to immediately commence planning for a Greek Village Project at Worth Hills and begin construction in January 2013. Additionally, we will renovate Colby Hall, our last original residence hall remaining in need of renovation.

FUTURE FUNDRAISING
As The Campaign for TCU draws to a close this May, we will celebrate exceeding our campaign goal not once, but twice. We appreciate the role each of you played in helping us surpass our goals.

Moving forward, the University must keep the possibility of an exceptional TCU education open to all deserving students.  This goal will require significant increases in scholarships and financial aid.  A robust and growing endowment is imperative to provide those scholarships, as well as support for academic programs and faculty and new faculty positions. Therefore, fundraising efforts will focus on these objectives.

Creating the future is daunting.  But we must seize this moment of transformation to move TCU toward becoming a great national university. Not to diminish TCU’s identity and its values, but instead to respect and enhance its distinctions — all that is right and true about this wonderful school.

In short, we must fulfill TCU’s destiny: to truly be a world-class, values-centered university.

I will further discuss these plans with the campus community at a town hall meeting March 7 at noon in the BLUU auditorium. I hope that you will be able to attend.

Highest regards and gratitude for the role each of you fills at Texas Christian University!

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