By Gloria Petit/@GloriPetit
As many as 711 spring and summer students will walk the stage May 15 at Texas A&M University-San Antonio’s spring commencement at Freeman Coliseum.
It’s a milemarker for the university, but poses a challenge. The university now must boost enrollment to replace exiting graduates.
Each time waves of students graduate, the university must react to the continual pressure to fill classroom seats to increase the university’s growth and enrollment. Sustained enrollment growth is vital to convincing state lawmakers to fund campus expansion.
Though graduation is a time to celebrate for students, university faculty and staff will need to push to increase enrollment numbers for the following academic year, said Eric Cooper, vice president for enrollment management.
Nearly 57.3 percent of state appropriations for general academic institutions are allocated via two funding formulas and two supplements, primarily based on enrollment. The Legislative Budget Board for the State of Texas mandates the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board to present formula funding recommendations on June 1 of even-numbered years.
Jennifer Skiver, interim VP for business affairs and chief financial officer, said if enrollment decreases the university is affected financially. If enrollment goes up, it means the university could gain more funds.
The university’s 2014 Fact Book shows the university achieved steady enrollment increase since 2009 when the university became a stand-alone university.
In order to keep enrollment numbers up, Cooper said, the university has continued to encourage intensive recruitment throughout San Antonio.
“We have started to put together some new processes to keep up and get applications up,” he said. “We have a really good rate for students admitted. We now have more people completing their applications and that is a good sign.”
He also said that the university assigned recruiters to different areas of the city. Admissions counselors are sent out to each of the Alamo Colleges and recruiters target the local school districts.
“We keep increasing graduation numbers, but we just need to keep replacing those numbers with enrolled students,” he said.
Matson reiterated the importance of enrollment and formula funding during her Feb. 10 testimony to the Texas Legislature’s Senate Finance Committee.
“One of our highest priorities is the importance of formula funding,” she said. “This is also very important to our campus. It provides increased faculty and student support for our increasing student population,” she said.
Dolores Scritchfield, graduation coordinator, said that graduation numbers must be considered when the university needs to calculate how many students to fill classroom seats the following academic year.
“The president does ask for numbers in reference to enrollment,” Scritchfield said. Administration must “consider graduating students and to try to come up with how many more students need to be supplemented. Of course a lot of our graduating students will come back and go into a graduate program,” she added.
Scritchfield said 611 students have applied for spring 2015 graduation, which is an increase from the number of students who graduated during the fall semester.
Fall 2014 Graduated 556
Spring 2014 Graduated 509
Spring 2013 Graduated 410