To the University Community
Happy New Year to everyone. 2011 promises to be an exciting and challenging year for us. I wanted to share with you that others have recognized our accomplishments in the past year. On Sunday, January 2, 2011, the Odessa American published a great editorial, "Hat's Off to UTPB for Another Stellar Year." Below is a copy:
January 02, 2011 6:00 AM - Odessa American Editorial
As we ring in the New Year, we feel we must note that it appears our little ol' institution of higher education on East University Boulevard spent much of 2010 turning heads in a really big way.
Once again, the University of Texas of the Permian Basin turned up in U.S. News & World Reports' list of top colleges and universities in the country.
And Washington Monthly magazine awarded UTPB a 2010 College Guide Top 20 Award in its "Social Mobility Category" for master's universities. That is a fancy way of acknowledging that the university has shown great success in recruiting and graduating students from low-income backgrounds.
And the cherry on top of this cake of achievement came only a few weeks ago, when the university announced that its accreditation by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges (SACS) was reaffirmed without a single recommendation.
The SACS accreditation process is a rigorous one that occurs every 10 years for colleges and universities, and being SACS-accredited is critical to a university's livelihood.
SACS accreditation signifies a school has a mission appropriate to higher education standards and the resources, programs and services sufficient to accomplish and sustain that mission.
Simply put, it's academia's "Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval," and without it universities such as UTPB cannot receive federal funding.
It is common for universities to receive recommendations — on average between 30 and 40 — from SACS that focus on areas in which a school should be doing better.
Well, UTPB's perfect score is further proof it is doing uncommonly great work. It may not be the largest university around, but it continues to prove that often times the best things come in small packages.
Great accomplishments such as these didn't just happen. UTPB earned the spotlight because its administration, faculty and staff are passionate about taking people from all sorts of backgrounds and working hard to instill in these students a higher level of self worth and critical thinking skills. They show these students a world in which they can make a difference and they prepare them to do just that.
Permian Basin residents should be proud to have a university of UTPB's caliber in our region.
The university and the graduates they produce make this world a better place.
And just to start the New Year with a bang, yesterday both the women and men won their opening contests for 2011. The women beat Lone Star Conference Cameron University and the men defeated Lone Star Conference Angelo State University- for the second time this year.
Congratulations UTPB Falcons, led by Coach Adam Collins (women) and Coach Duane Osborne (men).
See you at the games. The men's next home contest is January 13 at 8:00 against Heartland Conference Dallas Baptist. The women play at home on January 15 at 2:00 pm against Heartland Conference University of Arkansas- Fort Smith.
To the University Community
Thank you and congratulations to everyone for the outstanding SACS reaffirmation of accreditation for UTPB. UTPB was awarded the best outcome possible: reaccreditation has been affirmed, and no follow-up reports are required. The leadership of Doug Hale, Karen Smith, Denise Watts, Pat Sherblom and Kay Ketzenberger is appreciated. When you see these folks, please thank them for a job well done. Thanks and accolades to every staff and faculty member who contributed to the compliance report and the QEP. As we go through the difficult financial times, we enter in great shape with our SACS accreditation reaffirmed.
Some other good news, received today, is that the Comptroller's Office of UT System has recommended that we be given a "Satisfactory" financial rating for FY 2010. Of course, this is a recommendation to the Board of Regents and will not be official until the February Board meeting. A "Satisfactory" rating is as good as it gets.
Today, we received the Governor's and legislative leadership's letter announcing another reduction in this year's funding. While we do not have to submit a plan to the Governor, we have to reserve 2.5 percent of this fiscal year's appropriated funds. As I mentioned in my last letter to you, we had heard that additional reductions would be coming this year, but I did not want to speculate as to the amount or consequences. In brief, this is about one quarter of what the speculation was earlier this year.
Due to the operational savings we have implemented this year, we have already set aside the necessary funds to meet the 2.5 percent call. Most vacant positions will continue to go unfilled, and the budget controls we have put in place will remain.
Planning for the next biennium continues. All UT institutions have been told to plan for a reduction, measured from the beginning of the current biennium (September 1, 2009) to the beginning of the next biennium (September 1, 2011), of up to 25 percent of appropriated funds. This does not mean we will be cut 25 percent, only that we have to plan for it. The Budget and Planning Committee is hard at work seeking input from all areas of the university. Until the legislature finishes its work, sometime this summer, we will not know how much more, if any, UTPB will have to give up.
As I write this, I am in Kentucky for the SACS annual meeting. Here in Kentucky, the unemployment rate is 10 percent. In Louisville yesterday, eleven hundred people lined up to get a few hundred temporary jobs that will pay slightly more than minimum wage. Colleagues from other states were telling me that they were looking at reductions comparable to our own, in addition to the cuts of 20 to 40 percent that they have already experienced. Certainly the misery of others is no comfort to us as we plan for challenging years ahead. Texas, even with all of the difficulties ahead, appears to be the last to go into this recession and among the first to come out.
Overall, the news is good. Our accreditation is reaffirmed. UTPB is in good financial condition. The funds to meet the current mandated reduction in state support have been conserved. As we graduate our students on Saturday, let's celebrate with them. Their successes are ours. Our success is theirs.
There has been a lot of misinformation in the press recently about the State's financial situation and what impact it would have on UTPB. The information is inaccurate simply because no official announcement has been made by the Governor and the legislative leadership.
Here are some things that we do know:
1. State revenues are not meeting projections. Expenses are exceeding income.
2. The next biennium, beginning September 1, 2011, will have a reduction for higher education unless the legislature significantly increases revenues.
3. Ther will be probably be another reduction for this year's budget. We do not know how much that will be as of this writing.
4. Many states have used furloughs to help with reductions in state support. Texas law at this time does not permit furloughs. Many legislators expect a bill authorizing furloughs to be introduced in the next session. The earliest furloughs might be considered is September 1, 2011.
5. The Regents approved tuition increases for Fall 2011 in March 2010. The amount is $9.25 per credit hour, and the student medical fee will increase $1.25. Depending on what the legislature does, we may have to ask for a larger tuition increase. No matter what happens, UTPB will work to retain its relative position among four year institutions.
6. We are examining a Modified Retirment Policy for Faculty and Staff. This proposed plan would allow a faculty or staff person to retire and return to the university half time and earn half of their present salary as well as retirement benefits.
Right now there is a lot of uncertainty and even more unknowns. In the next few days or weeks, I expect that we will learn more definitively about Texas' situation and what it means for UTPB. I want to share with as many people as possible what I know and the steps we are proposing for dealing with the challenges ahead. I am eager to discuss the situation and possible responses with departments, schools and colleges, the Faculty Senate, the Student Senate and the Staff Advisory Council. Please let me know when I can come to your meeting.
As I close, I want to emphasize some things. Students get a great education at UTPB. No matter how severe the cuts, UTPB will survive and thrive. All of us need to continue to focus on what is important for the students we serve: their success. What will help UTPB now and in the future is continued growth. By recrutiing and retaining more students to graduation, we fulfill our mission.
I am implementing a President's Blog at UTPB. I hope that you will read and comment. http://utpb.campuspack.net/Users/David.Watts/UTPB_Presidents_Blog
To the University Community:
With the mid term elections over, the legislative session is just around the corner, beginning January 11, 2011. UTPB has a great story to tell. I've tried to summarize the good news about UTPB into Talking Points. Here they are:
After the SACS meeting in December, we should be able to proudly announce our reaccreditation. This November, we will be visited by the Council on Social Work Education, (CSWE) and in February, we will host a team from AACSB (Association for the Advancement of Collegiate Schools of Business International). We look forward to positive outcomes on those visits as well.
You may have other items that you think we should include in UTPB Talking Points. All of us are in a position to share our achievements as an institution with friends and family. Please do. We have much to be proud of here at UTPB. Let's share it as widely as we can.
Attached are two presentations that Dr. Prior and the presidents will be making to the Regents this week. Since the information is both flattering and not so flattering to our efforts over the past five years, I thought I should share it with you. Overall, UTPB has lost ground in its efforts to increase its four and six year graduation rates. On the positive side, System has included a measure that includes transfer students for a composite graduation rate. We look much better on this measure but still have much to do.
I want to thank you for all you do to improve student success. I think we are making prograss. The area's economic boom in 2007-08 hurt our efforts to retain students, since many were attracted to well paying jobs. Since then, we have improved our freshman retention rate and have begun a partnership with AVID to help all freshmen, but particularly second quartile freshmen, to be more successful.
Some of you may have heard this Fall that UTPB scored in the top third of Washington Monthly's masters university rankings. What you may not have heard is that UTPB received a Top 20 award from Washington Monthly for Social Mobility. UTPB helps a large proportion of its first generation students earn a degree and become successful after their university experience.
I congratulate you on your success and ask you to continue to join with me in doing all we can to help students be successful at UTPB.