Faculty Senate tackles retention problems

by Amy Davis

Daily Cougar Staff

UH's declining enrollment was the big topic at Wednesday's Faculty Senate meeting as Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Ed Apodaca explained why UH's retention rates have steadily dwindled, and searched for ideas about what can be done to curb the problem.

"We have difficulty accepting the fact that we are a quality institution," Apodaca said. UH lets all of the nation know what a great university it is, but it will continue to have retention problems until it convinces the students that it is great, he said.

Apodaca said that a decreasing head count and semester credit hours has resulted in a loss of $8 million over the past three years. He credits the loss to the lack of classes offered at convenient times, and personal and financial reasons of the students.

Refuting the argument that the decrease in enrollment is due to the increasing number of minorities in high schools, Apodaca said that UH's problem is that we are losing a lot of white students who drop out as undergraduates.

Addressing Apodaca's financial theory, George Reiter of the Department of Natural Science and Mathematics asked what percent of financial aid and scholarship money went toward the Athletics Department. However, Apodaca did not have a figure available to respond.

Strategies implemented by Apodaca include working with community colleges and Houston Independent School District to create a pipeline that will bring UH more students.

At HISD, UH hopes to attract teachers as well as students who will come to the university to continue their education in summer school.

A barrier to this plan is the conflicting schedule of high school and college summer breaks.

"UH summer school begins before high school is out, so teachers cannot attend," said Social Sciences Professor Harrell Rodgers.

Faculty Senate President Karl Kadish said administrators are discussing the problem and are trying to work on allowing these teachers to be excused from university classes until their schools are released for summer break.

New offices are being created in the Valley, San Antonio and the Dallas/Fort Worth area to recruit more students outside of Houston.

"We have done a poor job recruiting students from other areas," Apodaca said. "Eighty-five percent of UH students are Houstonians."

Ernst Leiss of Natural Sciences and Mathematics said, "Four years ago, we complained that we had too many students to handle, and we fixed the problem by adhering to our admission dates. Now we are crying because there are not enough students. I really don't see a problem."

Internal funding was briefly discussed by a seemingly agitated Garth Jowett of Humanities, Fine Arts and Communication.

Jowett pointed out the fact that many universities much smaller than UH have internal funding for researchers that don't bring in money to the universities.

"I don't know whether it takes hitting this university over the head with a two-by-four, but this is clearly an issue," Jowett said. "Its time should have come a long time ago."

Before requesting that Jowett hold the topic for the Forum on Academic Priorities, Kadish said, "There's no research money available even for researchers that do bring in the money."

Also at the meeting, the Educational Policies and Student Affairs Committee's Maria Gonzalez said that a two-year extension on UH's food service contract was awarded to Aramark Food Services.

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