Academic senate airs concerns over growing student population

In its first meeting of the semester on Monday, the Academic Senate addressed campus enrollment and how to maximize student success.

Fresno State provost and vice president for academic affairs Lynette Zelezny spoke about the need for a campus dialogue about overcrowding on campus.

Speaking with the executive senate of the budget committee and the California State University chancellor’s office, Zelezny had to apply for approval for a dialogue to take place on the Fresno State campus.

“We have been watching our student numbers, knowing that we have more students that we are serving on campus than we are getting funding for,” Zelezny said. “We need to be thinking about the future. Many colleges have come forward to create a dialogue for impaction, and we are now one on the list,” she said.

The chancellor’s office has established a timeline for the campus dialogue, that will occur within the next two months. An internal dialogue between staff, as well as an external dialogue within the community, will take place, Zelezny said, so that all sides will have a voice in the process.

“It could be a proposal that says something like the college of engineering would like to have more control about what kind of math classes it wants its students coming in to the major with,” Zelezny said. “It could be looking at the number of students coming to the university–about 12 percent that are freshmen, that have these predictive indicators making their success here that first year not probable. Do we want to look more strongly at that, look at the high schools and say if you have a student that has these characteristics their best path is to start at a community college, get that remediation and then come to Fresno State.”

Zelezny’s end goal for the dialogue, she says, is to promote academic success.

“Are we happy with the way we do enrollment management here at Fresno State, the numbers of students that we have? Is there anything we wish to do differently?” she said.

Combating the increasing enrollment size associate provost and dean of undergraduate studies Dr. Dennis Nef said that Fresno State might have to turn out-of-state applicants away for the next academic year.

As an open access institution, Fresno State is required to accept all students who apply who meet the campus eligibility. Looking down the road in 2015-16, Nef said, Fresno State will have more students apply than the campus has the ability to teach.

“That’s the real problem,” Nef said. “So what we said was, this was unsustainable, so for the next year, 16-17, we need to have some control. So that’s what we’re really applying for now, how can we have more control of the students we are getting in 16-17?”

“Given the tools that the CSU has allowed us to use right now, we can limit the number of students we can take from out of the area, but we have to accept all students in the area. Looking at the fall of 15-16, it’s possible we will not allow any out-of-the-area students because our total applicant pool, the total number we can teach, will be met just locally.”

Nef said that although some students may be turned down, he hopes to allow for as many out-of-state students as possible, especially in fields that aren’t taught throughout California.

“We’d like to have the opportunity to  bring some students in from out of the area, particularly some of the disciplines that are not taught somewhere else in the state,” Nef said. “We really need to have this opportunity to look at some strategies that we can use to identify which students we are able to select.”

Fresno State President Joseph Castro said that although the CSU budget system has increased, it has not done so in a way that continues to meet the growing demand for students.

With 268 new slots for faculty from additional allocations from the CSU budget, Castro said that it still might not be enough for Fresno State to grow at a fast enough rate.

“We could very likely grow faster if there were more funding available, but right now the system is only growing by about 1 percent, so we have to think about longevity,” Castro said.

Dr. Loretta Kensinger, a professor of Women’s Studies, agreed with Castro that current funding may not be enough, but attributed some faculty increases to inefficient hiring for the long term.

“I still think it’s important that every chance we get to have this conversation that the administration and the senate be working together to constantly give the message that what we need is bigger faculty,” Kensinger said.

Although hiring rates have increased over the years, Kensinger argued that Fresno State is still lower in faculty totals, with the net faculty hiring in a given year being more part-timers than those on the tenure track.

“If we look, for example, at the increase hiring rates that we keep hearing about, we keep touting about new faculty lines, but we are still lower, so we aren’t actually making anything back in tenure hiring,” she said.

Other factors up for discussion in the dialogue include high school numbers which are expected to drop statewide in the future, increased competition from other college campuses, and bachelor’s degree programs now being offered in community colleges.

“CSU has the right to advise and consent on these programs,” Kensinger said. “The turnaround for the advising is going to be very quick.”

“We must ask,” Kensinger said, “Does this conflict with anything on our campus, does it mirror too closely, and in the GE area, the concern is that the upper division GE requirements — are these reflective of upper-division GE package? Fifteen to sixteen colleges have their B.A.’s now, and those should not merit what’s happening in the CSU system. We need to look at programs everywhere.”

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