Board of Regents review spring enrollment, faculty evaluations

by SARA MARSHALL//Editor-in-Chief

Enrollment for the spring semester, housing occupancy, faculty evaluations and the current Texas State Legislative Session were among topics discussed during the January meeting of the South Plains College Board of Regents.

Cathy Mitchell, vice president for student affairs, previewed the preliminary spring enrollment and housing occupancy for the Board. Prior to the 12th class day [Feb. 1], there were a total of 8,043 students enrolled at SPC. As of the Feb. 1, 8,842 students are attending SPC for the Spring 2017 semester. Both numbers include dual-credit students, all campus locations and online students.

At the close of the Fall 2016 semester, 90 percent of dorms were occupied, up 9 percent from the prior fall semester. Projected housing occupancy numbers for the spring semester showed a 7-percent increase in occupancy from last spring. As of the census day, 608 students are housed in residence halls.

“We have a great team and great residence hall directors,” Mitchell said. “Katherine’s doing a great job, and they all are going to be focusing on retention. Because retention of these students mean retention in our classrooms.”

All old furniture in the residence halls, excluding any built-in or permanent furniture, on the Levelland campus was removed and disposed of during the winter break. In place of the older furniture, new, modern-looking furniture has been moved in and installed in every dorm room.

“We’re really looking forward to some good times in housing,” Mitchell said. “Students are thrilled [about the new furniture]. I’m not sure where we’re going to put [new students], because I really think they’ll want to be here.”

As the fall semester came to an end in December, SPC conducted faculty evaluations.

“We ripped the band aid off this fall,” said Dr. Ryan Gibbs, vice president of academic affairs. “We went from doing our course evaluations with paper and pencil to online only. We were very pleased with the results.”

Dr. Gibbs reported that more than 78 percent of the online evaluations given were completed. According to Dr. Gibbs, the paper-and-pencil evaluations have a return rate of roughly 80 percent each semester.

“There’s really no discernable difference,” Dr. Gibbs said. “We anticipate as we get better at doing online computer surveys that number will continue to go up. Eventually, what I hope we get to is that we can evaluate every course every semester, so that every student has an opportunity to speak their mind.”

Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of SPC, discussed his meetings with local representatives and state senators prior to the start of the 2017 Legislative Session. He and other community college leaders [Texas Association of Community Colleges] proposed a 5-percent increase in funding instead of the 4-percent cut proposed by the legislators, since community colleges were underfunded in the past session.   

“It’s a pretty bold request,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “But we’ve had a good response from legislators. They recognize that they did not fund community colleges to the level that they should have. I can’t explain why it fell through the cracks; no one can explain why it fell through the cracks.”

According to Dr. Satterwhite, the chair of the Finance Committee admitted that legislators don’t understand how community colleges are funded.

“It’s different,” Dr. Satterwhite said. “We don’t have the special line items that we can take from for funding during a budget cut. [Community colleges] are funded in three very specific ways. We’re funded through enrollment, core funding and success points. That’s it.”

Staying hopeful, Dr. Satterwhite said legislators are receptive to not having their proposed budget cuts, and there is even some talk about the increase in funding. The legislature’s decision will not be announced until some time in May.

Dr. Satterwhite also discussed the progress of the new Lubbock campus location, which is projected to open for the Fall 2017 semester.

“It’s really moving along nicely,” Dr. Satterwhite said of construction on the Lubbock Center. “We’re pleased with the current progress.”

Dr. Satterwhite projected that the new Culinary Arts Program, to be housed at the Lubbock Center, should be ready for enrollment for the Spring 2018 semester.

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