South Carolina State’s new vice president of finance and operations/chief financial officer’s first priority is to work on how the university will acquire additional housing for a growing student population, the president said Thursday. of the State of SC, Alexander Conyers, to the administrators.
The President presented a report which included the introduction of Dr. Gerald Smalls for the position of Chief Financial Officer and Finance Officer, and Keisha Campbell as Acting Director of Athletics and Curtis Bradley as Acting Chief Information Officer.
Conyers said Smalls will be assisted with the student housing work by Ken Davis, facilities/planning and construction manager.
The president said the university welcomed more than 1,000 new students this year, “which included new freshmen, transfer students and re-admissions.”
“I will tell you that additional accommodation could have brought us at least 300 new students. We have therefore halted the application process. We stopped processing applications for new students who needed housing, but we know we could have gotten another 300,” Conyers said.
“So first on Dr. Smalls’ list is additional housing, the renovation of the current inventory that’s not online. Dr. Smalls, along with Ken Davis, is working very, very hard,” said the president.
He added that the university is also about to conduct its review of academic programs and curricula.
“We are eagerly awaiting this report, but just comparing other public universities in the state without me having the final product, I can tell you that we have too many university programs for the number of students we have. “, said Conyers.
“I could tell you that we probably have the second-lowest enrollment among all public universities, but we still have the second or third highest number of degrees. We’re going to have to make some tough decisions,” he said. -he declares.
The president said a review of the university’s and campus-wide athletics master plans had also been conducted, while a salary review would be conducted later.
“We haven’t outsourced that yet, but I’ll also tell you, just from the benchmarking, that $39 million salary for the number of students is very high when you compare that with other other public universities,” he said, noting that striking a good balance would require “a simultaneous combination of increasing student numbers and resizing the force.”
Conyers said there may be a need to cut staff or ensure “the right staff are in the right positions”.
“I am planning, hopefully, a cabinet retreat in November that will focus strictly on people, talent acquisition and talent management, then look at every position on campus and decide: is this position still needed? “Can we remove it? We move it? But we have to simultaneously look at our salary and look at our student enrollment for it to work,” he said.
Increasing retention is another Conyers goal.
“I’ve said it many times, we just can’t get new students in. We have to hold them back. That being said, the national attrition rate is around 30%. Out of 1,000 students nationwide, that means 300 won’t be coming back.
“We want to be below this national average. Currently, I think last year our attrition rate was 28%. Again, doing this requires making data-driven decisions. We are in the process of announcing a director for a freshman experience,” he said.
The president said an academic pardon policy and extended withdrawal deadlines would also help retain students without costing extra money.
“We are probably the only public institution in South Carolina without an academic pardon policy. … With an academic pardon policy, whether you have six hours or nine hours, different schools have different amounts, this student comes in and says, ‘Hey, I want to come in and use three hours of my academic pardon.’
“Immediately, if he has an F, that F is dropped from his GPA, which in most cases can bring that student down to a 2.0 GPA. Now that this student is still eligible for financial aid, this student does not have to pass the academically satisfactory exam,” Conyers said.
He continued: “Number two, extend the withdrawal deadline for failure for our students. Major implications again for academics and financial aid. We have been at school for about a month. Next week is our deadline. So if a student drops a course in the state of South Carolina next week and fails, that’s a WF, a failing withdrawal, which means it affects their GPA.
“At all other public universities in South Carolina, that date is November 2. So other universities have found a way … to make sure these students stay in school financially. We have to get to that. One requires a policy change, another is an administrative change that (SCSU Provost) Dr. (Frederick) Evans and I will be working on.
Conyers said he will focus on new academic buildings when submitting the university’s budget to the governor’s office this year. Trustees approved the university’s proposed budget of $64.9 million for the 2022-23 fiscal year at the meeting.
“One huge thing that we are working on later this month is the submission to the Governor’s Office of the budget. Last year it was the student center. My list this year includes a new Turner Hall, home to the College of Education, Humanities and Social Sciences, our largest programs.
“If we want to be able to help the state of South Carolina with its teacher shortage, we need to upgrade our college buildings, as well as our outdated library,” he said.
The president continued, “It has been … at least three decades, 30 years, since the state fully funded a new college building for the state of South Carolina. … So that’s my focus this year, new university buildings,” Conyers said.
Also during the meeting, State Sen. Vernon Stephens, D-Bowman, and Sen. John L. Scott Jr., D-Columbia, both SCSU alumni, presented the board with a resolution from the Senate recognizing the 75th anniversary of the university’s ROTC program.
Conyers said, “On the heels of ROTC recognition, for the first time next year, Congress will fund an ROTC building on campus. For years, it was up to the institution to fund an academic building to the ROTC.”