December Town Hall: Campus finances, strategic enrollment and more

In the last Town Hall of the fall semester, Interim Chancellor Jennifer Sobanet and a panel of campus leaders shared updates on campus finances, enrollment and other campus happenings.

Sobanet began her Town Hall remarks with a reminder of the upcoming fall commencement ceremony.

“As we come to celebrate our graduates and the newest members of the UCCS alumni community, we are reminded why we do what we do: And that is to change lives for the better,” said Sobanet. “Each student crossing the stage reached this pivotal milestone through their passion, their hard work and their own dedication to a better tomorrow. And they reached it through the countless ways that each of you have supported them. Thank you for that, and I cannot wait to celebrate our new graduates together with all of you.”

Sobanet then providing updates on the three priorities given to her by President Saliman for her time as Interim Chancellor: strategic enrollment, shared governance and financial transparency. These priorities were developed by Saliman during his listening sessions at UCCS and are connected with both the university’s and CU System’s strategic plans.

Campus leaders then responded to questions submitted by the audience.

Strategic Enrollment

Spring Enrollment

  • Compared to this time last year, the UCCS student body headcount is up three percent, and Student Credit Hours are slightly down by 0.2 percent. These numbers will fluctuate before the spring census date, January 31, but spring trends are positive.
  • 17% of UCCS course sections have waitlists, and 20% of offered course sections are at or above capacity. The Provost and colleges are working together to resolve these as quickly as possible.  

Strategic Enrollment Plan

  • Jose Cantu, vice chancellor for Enrollment Management, is spearheading the creation of a Strategic Enrollment Plan, partnering with Ruffalo Noel-Levitz (RNL) and the formation of five working groups. Each group is comprised of faculty, staff and students. The objective is to optimize academic programs and student success supports that foster the attraction and retention of more students.
  • The initiative is focuses on establishing connections between academic offerings and the workforce and economic development needs of the region. 
  • The timeline for the completion of this plan has moved from April 2024 to November 2024.

Other Initiatives

  • Susan Taylor, vice provost and associate vice chancellor for Undergraduate Education & Academic Planning, and Kimberly Guyer, associate vice chancellor for Student Affairs, are creating a student retention and persistence plan that will be folded into the Strategic Enrollment Plan.
  • Provost Nancy Marchand-Martella is working closely with deans, chairs and academic program leaders to elevate innovative, unique programs, research, and activities to differentiate UCCS in the higher education market. 
  • Nathan Bullock, executive director for online operations, is working closely with Provost Marchand-Martella to develop proposals to grow UCCS online offerings.
  • UCCS is reinvigorating its concurrent enrollment class offerings to students from local school districts and is charging the state-mandated community college tuition rate to improve pipelines of K-12 students into UCCS. Sobanet thanked Director of Admission Chris Beiswanger and his team for their efforts moving this initiative forward.  
  • UCCS is working closely with Pikes Peak State College to create more transfer pathways into UCCS. Sobanet thanked Don Rabern, dean of the College of Engineering and Applied Science, and his team for shepherding this project.  
  • Marketing and Communications has been working to create the next iteration of the UCCS marketing campaign. Built on 6 months of research, the campaign will roll out later this month.   
  • UCCS Admission is partnering with the CU System Office to increase UCCS outreach efforts in southern Colorado and rural counties across the state. 

Student Retention and Advancement Successes

  • “And, most importantly, we are all working on ways in which we can impact the retention and persistence of our students. We want them to be successful here so that they too will someday cross that commencement stage,” said Sobanet. “We all know that that is everyone’s job on campus. Even the smallest of interactions can make the difference in a student choosing to stay or leave. Whether it’s the in-class and out-of-class experience or the services we provide in all our departments.” 
  • UCCS Advancement exceeded their fundraising goals last year and are at the front of the pack compared to the CU sister campuses in meeting this year’s goals. With scholarships, such as the new MOASAIC scholarship and HEROES scholarship for active-duty military students, these donated funds make it possible for more students to attend, persist and graduate from UCCS. 
  • Giving Tuesday was such a success — while final gifts are still being counted, so far more than $80,000 has been raised from generous donors. The Family Development Center, MOSAIC and Clyde’s Cupboard achieved their matching challenge grant goals through focused constituent engagement efforts.   

Shared Governance

  • Sobanet highlighted the cascading communications process which allows for information to flow back to cabinet. Sobanet meets every month with shared governance leaders to get their input and recommended changes through interactions with the larger UCCS community. 
  • UCCS continues to work with the University Budget Advisory Committee (UBAC). UBAC materials can be accessed on the Budget Teams channel. UBAC members serve as representatives for their stakeholders, bringing consultative feedback from their stakeholders to the UBAC meetings.

Financial Transparency

  • The university is using one-time funds to support $14 – $17m in ongoing expenses. UCCS will address these commitments over the coming 4 – 5 years. Reserves will be used to create an opportunity to address these commitments and allow time to determine if these items will be moved into base funding, discontinued entirely or partially moved into base funding.
  • Cybersecurity programs at UCCS have been entirely funded through state legislation and state funds that will end June 30, 2024. President Saliman, the system government relations team, Gretchen Bliss, director of Cybersecurity Programs, and Interim Chancellor Sobanet have been working to renew this funding.   
  • The inaugural Budget Book Club begins in January. Interested participants should contact Shawn Hood for more information. 
  • UCCS is meeting its revenue projection through increased enrollment of out-of-state students. As a result, there are no additional budget cuts planned for the current fiscal year.  

Other Campus Updates

Commencement

  • Approximately 550 graduates are expected to participate in the fall commencement ceremony taking place Friday, December 15 at 2:00 p.m. at the Broadmoor World Arena.    
  • This year, UCCS welcomes Rich Fierro as the 2023 Distinguished Alumnus Speaker to deliver the ceremonies’ commencement address. Fierro is a 2021 MBA graduate, veteran, local small business owner, and was credited with helping subdue the gunman in the Club Q mass shooting in November of 2022.

Anschutz Engineering Center

  • The Anschutz Engineering center is scheduled to be completed by December 29, with furniture and equipment moving in between January 2 and 12. Classes will be held in the building in the spring semester.   
  • A ribbon cutting ceremony will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 16 at 3:15 p.m. 

Holiday Schedule

  • The UCCS campus will close during the last week of December, allowing employees to enjoy an extended vacation with family and friends without taking leave.
  • In total, the campus will be closed from Saturday, Dec. 23, through Monday, Jan. 1, except for essential services. Normal operations will resume on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024

Before moving to the Q&A portion of the Town Hall, Interim Chancellor Sobanet thanked Carole Woodall and the faculty and staff who have facilitated learning opportunities in response to the Israel-Hamas conflict.  

“As an institution of higher education, it is our responsibility to promote civil dialogue around pressing but divisive issues and events that affect the lives of those in our community and our world,” said Sobanet. “I am proud of our Mountain Lion community for doing an excellent job of stewarding these important conversations.” 

During the Q&A session, campus leaders shared information about elevator vandalism, AI policy, VC and dean management of financial reserves, the DEI Inclusive Excellence and Belonging Action Plan, resources for health and wellness, and other topics.

In her closing remarks, Interim Chancellor Sobanet shared a reminder to be respectful and supportive of fellow Mountain Lions. “We are all human beings; we all of us have our flaws and our fabulous attributes, and we have all chosen to dedicated our careers to our students and to the mission of UCCS. Thank you for all that you do to contribute to the success of our students.”  

Listen to the full session online.