Huang delivers 'State of the University' address

Category:  News
Wednesday, October 14th, 2020 at 11:31 AM

Note: Some information in this piece is attributed to the “State of the University Highlights” webpage, only accessible by students, faculty and staff. It is a document that summarizes the Zoom event.

Dr. Guiyou Huang, Edinboro University president, delivered a “State of the University Address” via Zoom on Oct. 6, discussing several challenges facing EU, as well as plans for the spring semester.

Huang began by addressing enrollment, which was 119 students short of the budgeted number this fall. This was “largely” and “probably” attributed to COVID-19 related issues. 

“Some students decided to stay home. Some take a gap year. Some wanted to just be online, 100%. … As you can imagine, we are not alone. Many colleges, too many, across the country are experiencing what we are.” 

According to the address highlights: “On March 6, 2020, we were up by 11.46% in first-year student deposits year over year. Keep in mind, that was compared with our Fall 2019 numbers, which were up by 18% over the previous year. Things were looking very good until COVID-19 struck.” 

Although enrollment took that hit, applications for first-year students are up by 16.8% compared to last year.  

And looking ahead in a different way, “inquiries from prospective transfer students are up by 18.25%, and applications (for transfer students) are up by 87%,” as stated on the address highlights. 

Over the last two years, the university has “tried very hard” to implement cost-saving and revenue-generating measures that, in the president’s words, “worked to a noticeable degree.” Over the last two fiscal years, Huang stated they saved over $21 million. The university was also able to reduce its operating deficit by about $4 million over the fiscal year 2019-2020. But those savings came with a caveat.  

“For a normal year, $4 million is a big savings, however, I have been not shy in saying our operating budget had a very deep deficit for a long time. Just about a decade,” said Huang. “So, the $4 million saved, reduced was helpful, but it was not adequate to offset a lot of other expenditures.” 

The university expects to deplete its reserves by the end of the current fiscal year. Because of these factors, Huang explained that the university may need to take a loan from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE). Huang anticipates having to borrow approximately $7 million from the system to help balance the budget; this loan is intended to sustain Edinboro for three years. An additional loan of $3 million may also be needed after that. 

Huang also reviewed the plan for the upcoming spring semester. The in-person class amounts will increase from 15% of classes to roughly 33%. He confirmed that commuter students will be permitted to attend in-person classes. In the address, he stated that capacity for on-campus residency will be 594 students. In a later interview with Vice President for Marketing and Communications Angela Burrows, that number was clarified to 559. 

Huang also confirmed that spring break will be eliminated next semester. In a Oct. 6 Spectator piece, Burrows explained that the spring break cancellation was based on cited surges in COVID-19 cases across the country last year after students had traveled during their time off. 

It was also confirmed that there is no current student representation on the Emergency Response Team, but the university has recently implemented several surveys through EngageU about the COVID-19 response. 

There are no new updates regarding athletics and spring 2021 prospects. The university is awaiting an official decision from the NCAA and the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC). 

The system's Board of Governors sets policy for all 14 PASSHE schools and is “expected to affirm the financial assessment supporting integration when it meets on Oct. 14-15,” according to the address highlights. From there, the integration teams will construct a more concrete plan, which will be presented to the board in April 2021. Following the proposal, 60 days of public comment will occur. Huang acknowledged that there are many factors left unresolved, which he understands is frustrating. 

According to the address highlights, the integration leadership group includes Huang, Provost Michael Hannan, Vice President for Finance and Administration John Hynes, Vice President for Marketing and Communications Angela Burrows, Vice President for Enrollment Management Bill Edmonds, APSCUF President and professor Marc Sylvester, and President of the Faculty Senate Peter Kuvshinikov. 

“Execution of the implementation plan will occur mostly during the 2021-2022 academic year, with the expectation that most of it would be in place by Fall 2022.” Huang declared the integration with Clarion and California University will result in "one accredited body." 

Another significant challenge facing the university is continued reduction in faculty and staff. According to Huang, some staff have already been let go by the university. Huang stressed that the university has considered alternatives to retrenchment, including retirements, reassignments, and elimination of temporary faculty. The university will have a clearer picture regarding retrenchment shortly, as letters are due to faculty by Oct. 31.  

Huang explained that the university’s goal is, and always will be, student success. "Student success is everybody's responsibility. Yours and mine. If we all help, the student success rates will be greater, there's no doubt about that," he said in closing.

Julia Carden is a staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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