Section 5: Issues of Greatest Institutional Priority

Please outline the issues of greatest institutional priority to be addressed using new net tuition and fee revenue. Specify each priority and detail how each priority fits within your strategic plan, the potential revenue dedicated to each priority, and the likely impact. Additionally, please be clear if the institutional priority relates to sustaining initiatives or operations that would otherwise have to be eliminated due to cuts or changes in overall operating revenue.

Estimate and summarize the expected allocation of new net revenue (between 0 – 100%) annually in the table below. Modify the table, as needed, to reflect a comprehensive list of initiatives and purposes.

As indicated in the chart below, the net new revenue will be primarily utilized for student success initiatives, the university’s highest priority. The launch of a Student Success Task Force will be directed to achieve an integrated student success plan and will focus on those programs that have the greatest opportunity to increase graduation rates and student retention rates. The last few years are showing good momentum in improving student graduation rates, which impacts the overall prosperity of students. Year 1 will see most of the increased revenue from mandatory fees and from differential tuition rates. The “Student Support” category is primarily for mandatory fee increases for specific services students have requested. In year 2, student success programs will continue as the primary focus for use of funding, but funds will also be allocated to explore support of faculty excellence and to recruit additional positions that focus on delivering world-class experiences for students.

Institutional Priority Initiative/Purpose Percent New Net Revenue Year 1 (0 – 100%) Percent New Net Revenue Year 2 (0 – 100%)
Student Success President’s Initiative on Student Success, COE and COB differential tuition 70% 56%
Student Support Student Services 9% 5%
Faculty Recruitment, Retention, and Excellence Strategic hires 7% 28%
Other Automated Service, Sustainability 14% 11%

Consider the impact of new revenue on student success, especially as it relates to the funding of key institutional priorities. Also, discuss the impact of new revenue on institutional excellence that might include peer comparisons, faculty recruitment and retention, institutional quality, etc.

5A. Student Success

Consider recent trends in student access and success outcomes such as retention, graduation, degrees granted, timeliness to degree, and enrollment, as well as the potential impact of new net tuition revenue on student success.

Since 2011, UTSA has implemented a series of initiatives to improve retention and graduation rates. Our efforts have paid off—we have seen steady improvements in the first year retention of our students, as well as our four-year and six-year graduation rates.

Our successes are despite the fact that these efforts have been funded through soft monies, making it difficult to plan for long-term program development. Our tuition and fee proposal will enable us to move these efforts away from relying on reserves and grants to fund these critical initiatives, putting them on solid footing with permanent funding.

Retention and Graduation Rates – Goals and Interventions

UTSA has set the following goals for improving the retention and graduation rates of our students:

  • Increase first-year retention from 74% to 78% in 5 years – by 2022
  • Increase first-year retention to 85% in 10 years – by 2027
  • Increase four-year graduation rates from 22% to 25% in 5 years – by 2022
  • Increase four-year graduation rates to 34% in 10 years – by 2027
  • Increase six-year graduation rates from 37% to 44% in 5 years – by 2022
  • Increase six-year graduation rates to 55% in 10 years – by 2027

These goals are based on an analysis done by EAB to determine targets that are ambitious yet realistic given our upward trajectory. In just the last two years, UTSA increased first-year retention rates by 3%, four-year graduation rate by 4%, and six-year graduation rates by 2%.

To put these goals in perspective, the first-year retention rate for four-year public institutions is 81% nationally, and 72% in Texas. Our 10-year goal for first-year retention (85%) would put us above the state and national averages.

The six-year graduation rate for four-year public institutions is 59% nationally, and 59% in Texas. Our 10-year goal for the six- year graduation rate (55%) would put us just slightly below the state and national averages, but represents an aggressive and achievable increase from our current rate of 37%.

Our retention and graduation rate improvements over the last two years are just the latest indicators of turnaround efforts that began six years ago. The implementation of several key interventions—including the establishment of our University College, a reorganization of our advising program, raised admission standards, a new first-year experience program, new scholarships, and a slate of new academic support programs—are having a tangible impact.

The charts below illustrate our progress to date. Descriptions of each of the labeled interventions can be found in the narrative that follows.

UTSA One-Year Retention Rates By Year chart

UTSA Four-Year Graduation Rates By Year chart

UTSA Six-Year Graduation Rates By Year chart

UTSA Transfer Student Four-Year Graduation Rates chart

Institutional Student Success Initiatives

Over the last six years, UTSA focused its student success efforts through three campus-wide initiatives.

Graduation Rate Improvement Plan

In 2011 UTSA launched the Graduation Rate Improvement Plan ( GRIP) with the primary goal of increasing four-year graduation rates. Under that plan, advising services were improved, the First-Year Experience (FYE) program was developed and admission standards were increased. Beginning in 2014, UTSA partnered with consulting firm EAB to bring advising technologies to the campus. In Fall 2015, a $3.25 million award from a Department of Education Title-V grant supported focused support efforts for our nearly 50% first-generation and 37% transfer student populations.

Additionally, work began to redesign Math 1073, a gateway course for STEM majors.

Coordinated and Linked Approaches to Student Success

Fall 2016 ushered in new efforts through UTSA’s Coordinated and Linked Approaches to Student Success (CLASS) initiative. CLASS efforts revolved around six priorities: focused academic support programs, advising services, onboarding practices, first year experience/AIS course, financial assistance offerings, and leadership and professional development opportunities.

President’s Initiative on Student Success

In Fall 2017, President Eighmy launched the President’s Initiative on Student Success Task Force (SSTF), elevating student success to an institution-wide priority. The cross-campus task force is charged with developing an integrated student success plan inclusive of goals, metrics, accountability, and self-assessment. Core to the charge is the adoption of a student-centric approach, with strategies including a plan for a pipeline continuum from K-12 through recruitment, enrollment, academic progress, career services, and post-graduation job placement. As part of their work, the task force will examine best practices from other institutions and think expansively about administrative structure, accountability and resources that will best position UTSA to be a great multicultural discovery enterprise that fosters exceptional student experiences.

A preliminary diagnostic assessment completed by EAB in November suggests future interventions may include:

  • Implementing proactive, holistic advising that includes professional development and technology optimization
  • Increasing the role of faculty in student success, particularly in the use of data for informing engagement within and beyond the classroom
  • Streamlining business policies and processes
  • Refining graduation management and application processes
  • Redesigning gateway courses
  • Creating summer bridge programs
  • Establishing block scheduling
  • Improving transfer student support

The Need for Dedicated Funding

Designated tuition increases will provide a sustainable funding source for the successful interventions established through GRIP and CLASS, as well as any future interventions and technology needs to come out of the work of the SSTF.

The initiatives listed below—all highly effective in improving retention and graduation rates—are funded through university reserves and cannot be sustained without a dedicated funding source.

Academic Advising

A centralized advising model, in conjunction with assigned caseloads and the use of predictive analytics, provide effective and best-practice approaches to academic advising (EAB. 2014, 2015, 2016). In 2014, UTSA began to align its advising model with these practices. During the summer and fall of 2016, university leadership conducted site visits and studied successful advising models at institutions with similar student profiles. Best practices were identified and a phased-in implementation began in 2017. These practices included enhanced academic advising centralization, better balanced student-to-advisor caseloads (with a goal of reaching a 325:1 enrolled student ratio), stronger links between advising and other units critical to student success, and efficient delivery of student success-focused advising services.

Student Success Technology

The aforementioned proactive advising approaches would not be possible without effective and efficient technology. Newly implemented advising technologies at UTSA include EAB SSC Campus, EAB Guide, and Degree Works. In addition, Civitas Learning’s College Scheduler, a web-based class scheduling tool, will be available for student use in late spring 2018.

EAB SSC Campus

EAB Campus is a “one-stop student success platform that combines best-in-class predictive analytics with powerful communication and workflow tools so academic advisors and other student success specialists can transform insight into action through coordinated support” (EAB, 2016b). UTSA’s academic advisors were trained on EAB Campus in August 2016, and as early as fall 2016, began implementing targeted advising campaigns and outreach efforts.

Advisors use this tool on a daily basis to better manage the needs of their caseloads. During the 2017-18 academic year, it is expected that financial aid counselors, career services, and academic support areas will begin using the tool to orchestrate a coordinated student support and referral system for students.

EAB Guide

“Guide is a mobile-first platform that helps students seamlessly accomplish tasks and milestones crucial for success. Hardwired with best practice research and student-tested content, Guide helps students progress through college’s many requirements. Structured journeys provide turn-by-turn directions that enable students to make smarter decisions, find help faster, and solve problems on their own. With a focus on academic performance, financial health, campus engagement, and career preparation, Guide empowers students to strive for and achieve success in college and beyond” (EAB, 2016c). UTSA rolled out the Guide application during summer 2017 with the 2017-18 FTIC cohort. Efforts to market to current upperclassmen began in fall 2017.

Degree Works

Degree Works is a “comprehensive academic advising, transfer articulation, semester-by-semester planner, and degree audit solution that aligns students, academic advisors, and institutions to a common goal of helping students graduate in a timely manner without excessive credits” (Ellucian, 2017). Beginning in summer 2016, advisors worked with their assigned students to develop a semester-by semester plan in the Degree Works planner component.

Currently, approximately 24,000 (85 percent) undergraduate students have active and locked plans. This has allowed thousands more students to have 24-hour access to their semester-by-semester degree plan, as well as view ‘what if’ scenarios should a student change his/her major. As Degree Works usage increases among our undergraduate students, we expect to see decreases in the number of hours accumulated toward a degree.

College Scheduler

Civitas Learning’s College Scheduler is a web-based course schedule building software designed to help students create class schedules that match with life and work responsibilities (Civitas Learning, 2017). This tool will allow students to create, within seconds, course schedule options that align with their active and locked semester-by- semester plans. This scheduling tool will be available for students to use during the fall 2018 early registration process.

First-Year Experience Program

Since fall 2014, all first-year UTSA students are required to participate in the First-Year Experience (FYE) Program, an initiative designed to help new students make connections academically and socially on campus. At the core of the First-Year Experience is the Peer Mentor Program, which pairs first-year college students with dedicated and experienced upper-classmen who have been specially trained to help new students make the transition to university life. Peer mentors guide students in balancing social life with academics, developing effective study habits, connecting with other students and navigating the university, which are challenges often faced by first-year students. Peer mentors are equipped to assist students by directing them to specialized academic and social resources that provide services to enhance student success.

First-Gen Faculty Coaches and Peer Mentors

Beginning in spring 2016, using Title-V Department of Education grant support, UTSA began to intentionally support its nearly 50% first-generation students. The First to Go and Graduate (F2G&G) program provides programing and a first-generation faculty coaches and a peer mentor to groups of first-generation students to form familias that foster a sense of belonging, inclusion to encourage retention and academic excellence.

Transfer Peer Mentors

Beginning in spring 2016, using Title-V Department of Education grant support, UTSA began to intentionally support its 37% transfer student population. The Roadrunner Transition Experience (RTE) program helps to onboard incoming transfer students through programing and by pairing them with peer mentor who has successfully transferred to UTSA.

The following programs are in the pilot or planning stages. Once their effectiveness has been assessed, they will need permanent funding to carry forward.

Academic Pathways

A growing number of colleges and universities across the nation are taking a different approach to helping students identify their path through college by creating academic pathways or meta-majors. Institutions are redesigning their offerings to simplify students’ decisions by creating more highly structured first-year programs with default schedules. This aids students in making better choices during their first year in college that will lead them toward their end goals without limiting their options (Jenkins, 2014).

Upon reviewing the various academic pathway and pre-set scheduling models implemented at universities throughout the nation and paying special attention to the methods employed at Georgia State University and Texas State University, UTSA has created an academic pathway model. UTSA is currently piloting four of 10 academic pathways through (1) common first-year coursework, (2) pre-set schedule offerings, and (3) expanded learning communities. It is expected that all 10 academic pathways will be fully implemented during the 2018-19 academic year.

UTSA’s Academic Pathways
Architecture Life & Health Sciences
Arts & Humanities Natural & Physical Sciences
Business Studies* Public Service & Policy Studies
Exploratory* Social Sciences
Interdisciplinary Education* Technology, Engineering & Mathematics*

*pathways piloted in 2017-18

AIS 1203, a required first-year core curriculum course, has been revised and is aligned with the academic pathway model. As a result, the course will have a standard course description, course objectives, and syllabus template, while also taking on the ‘flavor’ of the academic pathway the students enrolled are pursing. This will result in dedicated pathway-specific sections with enrollments of students interested in a single academic pathway.

Focused Academic Support – Math Emporium

UT System Funded Q-Leap Project 2017-2020

Insufficient college-level math readiness coupled with inadequate math pedagogy pose debilitating barriers to student success in math core curriculum courses. The consequences for UTSA students, who are predominantly Latina/o, first- generation and low-income, are that a majority of pre-STEM and pre-Business majors don’t persist in the STEM and Business fields, and many others are not retained to graduation.

As a result, UTSA has adopted a proven Emporium Model course redesign for STEM and Business core math courses. The Emporium Model, designed using the National Center for Academic Transformation (NCAT) guidelines, provides math instruction delivery in which students participate in active math learning via a supportive, student-centered, engaged-learning lab environment. With only one lecture averaged per week, instructors spend all other student- contact hours in the student-centered lab with Emporium enrolled students and student tutors. This facilitates and increases the number of outside lecture class time hours that instructors are engaged and actively supporting students. The Emporium lab is an incubator for fostering a sense of belonging and engagement among students and faculty. The Emporium’s high-impact, student-centered and high-faculty and tutor engagement will significantly increase the probability of student persistence, retention, and graduation.

LEAD Summer Success Academy

UT System Funded Q-Leap Project 2017-2020

First-year academic performance sets the foundation for a student’s overall success in college. Common reasons cited for college student attrition include limited academic preparation, a lack of sense of belonging (academic and social), and financial hardship. Just under half of UTSA students self-identify as first-generation, and often face the aforementioned academic, social, and financial challenges at disproportionately higher rates than non-first-generation and/or majority students. Those challenges are reflected in UTSA’s retention and graduation rates.

Research clearly shows the positive impact of bridging and academic support programs on participants’ GPA and university-level retention and graduation rates. Programs have reported that students who begin with a GPA of 2.5 or higher early in their academic career are retained at higher rates than those with lower GPAs. Likewise, programs that intervene with students on academic probation or warning have been shown to increase GPA and retention rates.

UTSA’s Project LEAD (Leadership, Engagement, Academics, and Dedication) aims to increase student success and retention by creating targeted programming for academically at-risk students at early stages of their academic career:

(1) incoming first-time, full-time freshmen admitted by holistic review and (2) students on academic probation or warning at the conclusion of their first-year. Project LEAD incorporates high impact practices, such as learning communities, service learning, and signature experience opportunities. All Project LEAD I and II participants will take course-work that applies to their respective degree while receiving intensive academic support and advisement, peer mentoring and coaching, social engagement experiences, and financial literacy training during a Summer LEAD Academy. Lead I and II participants will also receive intense academic and social support programming throughout the academic year following the Summer Academy.

Graduation Help Desk

UT System Funded Q-Leap Project 2017-2020

Undergraduate students encounter barriers to timely graduation. Some of these barriers are inadvertently put before students by institutional or administrative structures, routines, practices and procedures. Such barriers include issues with course scheduling, availability and access, and administrative paperwork and deadlines. While academic advisors are often the most knowledgeable resources about specific degree requirements, they are not always positioned or empowered to recommend changes to ingrained institutional policies and procedures that present roadblocks, nor do they necessarily have the authority to elevate students’ concerns beyond their office or department. The Graduation Help Desk (GHD) will address these issues by creating a virtual, one-stop resource, with top-level support from institutional leadership, for students who need help resolving roadblocks to timely graduation.

Automated Services Fee to Support Student Success

A portion of automated services fee will be used to support technology that will be used for student success efforts. These are:

  • New classroom support, extended hours support, and additional classroom technology to include Lecture Capture
  • MyApps Software to include
    • Acrobat Reader DC
    • Microsoft Office 2016
    • ArcGIS mapping tool
    • ChemDraw (a tool to depict chemical structures and reactions)
    • MathCAD (math software which allows the presentation of calculations with plots, graphs, text, and images in a single document), and other math, engineering and analytical software
  • Degree Works, which helps students to monitor their academic progress toward degree completion
  • Support staff
  • Student labs

Differential Tuition to Support Student Success

Differential tuition in the College of Business will allow UTSA to implement four student success initiatives. The first initiative seeks to enhance course availability, relieve scheduling bottlenecks, and increase students’ flexibility in course scheduling. The second initiative provides timely and targeted enhanced direct assistance in quantitative and technical problem solving through multiple, convenient delivery modes. Third, a proposed increase in availability of undergraduate internship opportunities will help students develop professionally and secure employment upon graduation. Finally, a small portion of the differential will be for supporting the need to create enhanced active learning spaces. The college will create a new active learning classroom and student collaboration space, providing student-centered and technology-rich learning environments. These classrooms allow teaching methods where students and faculty are more engaged. They will also facilitate the development of collaboration and team leadership skills that are highly valued by employers.

In the College of Engineering, differential tuition will allow for enhanced student success programs. The primary use of these funds will be for technician positions that work directly with students. The technicians will create safety policies, maintain safety in all teaching labs, maintain all laboratory equipment, provide training for proper operations of equipment, and provide continuity in lab instruction over the years.

5B. Student Support, Including Mandatory Fees (per above)

Describe any demonstrated need for student support mechanisms, specifically related to mandatory student fees.

Student Services Fee

UTSA is recommending an increase to the mandatory Student Services Fee to $0.39/SCH per academic year. The Student Services Fee is authorized under TEC 54.503 and has not increased in nearly 10 years. The Student Services Fee Committee and the Student Government Association were both supportive of the increase, and the Tuition and Fee Committee approved the increase with the full support of all those in attendance at the voting meeting.

The Student Services Fee supports many activities, and helps to create traditions for UTSA students. Current operations are funded using approximately $610,000 of one-time reserve funds. Due to inflation and the rising cost of staff health benefits, current services are not sustainable without a fee increase.

The Student Services Fee supports the following:

  • Counseling Center
  • One-Stop Enrollment Center
  • Enrollment Services
  • Student Activities
  • Student Financial Aid
  • Student Life Office
  • Career Center
  • Supplemental Instruction and Tutoring Services
  • Testing Center

The above programs and services provide a broad spectrum of support for our students, including safety and prevention, wellness, engagement and involvement, employment, leadership skills, study skills and tutoring. These services help students remain in school, graduate in four years and gain employment.

The programs below—currently supported with one-time reserve funds—will be permanently funded with the increased fee revenue:

  • Counseling Center psychologist residents
  • Student leadership programming
  • Continuing education for students
  • Campus labs
  • Creating traditions on campus (Roadrunner Days and BestFest Homecoming Event)
  • Increased engagement with students through social media and other digital venues
  • GivePulse, a digital platform that tracks student volunteer service hours

Athletics and Transportation Fees

The Student Government Association agreed to hold a referendum on February 6 and 7 for students to vote on proposed increases to the Athletic and Transportation Fees. There was strong student participation in the referendum, and neither fee passed. As such, all tuition and fee rates within this proposal have been revised to remove the Athletic and Transportation fees.

5C. Faculty Recruitment, Retention, and Excellence

Consider recent trends in faculty data outcomes, such as market salary and equity pay adjustments, recruitment and retention initiatives, etc., and the impact of new net tuition revenue allocated to related initiatives.

Recruitment and retention of faculty and staff is critical to accomplishing the strategic initiatives of UTSA. UTSA will begin a strategic hiring effort tied to its theme “Excellence of our People,” focusing on hires through GURI, CPRIT, STARS, and endowed chairs. The university will continue to add faculty in areas of research strength through cluster hiring, a strategy which has proven very successful over the past two years. Addition of faculty will also help reduce the student- faculty ratio, so that class sizes can be gradually reduced, leading to more personalized instruction and increased student success.

5D. other (including infrastructure, technology, etc.)

Automated Services Fee

The Automated Service Fee is authorized under TEC 55.16, and supports the costs associated with managing, maintaining, upgrading, and general operations of the university technology infrastructure, electronic resources, and online services. Student success depends on having reliable and robust technology, such as network and computer systems. The fee rate has remained the same since fall 2007 and operations are projected to have a $500,000 shortfall in FY 2018 and $1.4 million shortfall in FY 2019. Current services are not sustainable and are being supplemented with one-time reserve funds. Keeping talented and innovated staff is challenging. Technology and staffing cost have increased dramatically over the last 10 years. The Office of Information Technology staff has downsized and decreased its staff by 41 FTE (23 percent). Additionally, OIT consolidated business operations to increase efficiencies and reduced training and travel budgets. This mandatory fee supports the following services:

  • Network maintenance and upgrades (both wired and wireless)
  • Student Information System (ASAP)
  • Cybersecurity initiatives

The increase in revenue will help to address the following challenges:

  • Future network upgrade
  • Continued wireless upgrade requirements beyond our existing system
  • Additional new classroom support
  • Support for extended classroom hours (early mornings, late nights, weekends)
  • Continued additions to security requirements (desktop encryption, )
  • Movement to cloud services
  • Classroom capture campus wide
  • IT research support

Sustainability Initiatives

UTSA recommends increasing designated tuition $0.33 per SCH ($5 per regular semester per student) to be allocated toward university-wide sustainability initiatives. The funds will support one full-time equivalent employee for the Office of Sustainability and projects approved by a student committee. Examples of initiatives that may be implemented include hydration stations, upkeep and maintenance of the UTSA community garden, additional rooftop solar panels, and additional Big Belly Solar compactors.