Gates at the entrance of California University of PennsylvaniaGates at the entrance of California University of Pennsylvania

THIS WEEK'S MESSAGE FROM INTERIM PRESIDENT JONES

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Posted on September 27, 2013

To: All students, faculty and staff

From: Interim President Geraldine M. Jones

This week’s Fall 2013 Student Convocation was a delightful opportunity to share information with our students. Their energy and optimism is always refreshing, and it was clear that they care deeply about their University.

In addition to answering students’ questions, I recapped much of the information presented to faculty and staff last month in my State of the University address.

Now that the official census date has passed, I was able to update my presentation with our final enrollment figures for the fall 2013 semester.

I reported that our student headcount stands at 8,243, a decline of 4.2 percent compared to last year. The headcount for Cal U undergraduates decreased by nearly 3.5 percent compared to fall 2012 figures, and graduate enrollment dropped by 6.9 percent.

These figures are sobering, because the University relies on tuition and fees for about two-thirds of its budget. Combined with a sharp rise in personnel costs and flat funding from state appropriations, even this relatively modest dip in enrollment increases the financial pressure on our University at a time when we are just beginning to address deferred maintenance issues and replenish our fund balance.

Some of Cal U’s current enrollment challenges can be traced to the University’s rapid expansion just a few years ago. Students who entered as freshmen in 2009, 2010 and 2011 — record-setting years when the headcount topped 9,000 — are completing their studies and collecting their diplomas. To stabilize our enrollment, we need to replace those large classes of graduating seniors.

At the same time, the pool of new high school graduates is shrinking, especially in western Pennsylvania. And as the cost of higher education continues to climb, too many students are leaving the University or “stopping out” to work before earning their degree. We must be prepared to address the twin challenges of recruitment and retention now and in the years ahead.

I was heartened by one very bright spot in our enrollment report, however: We have made excellent progress in attracting new students. In fact, our freshman headcount increased by an astonishing 23 percent compared to fall 2012 — a promising sign that we are moving in the right direction.

Nevertheless, we all must work hard to help stabilize our enrollment. Through our words and deeds, we can all be champions for Cal U. 

With warm regards,

Interim President Jones' signature.

Meet Interim President Geraldine M. Jones