The Edmond Sun
Redefining itself as the state’s metropolitan university is part of the University of Central Oklahoma’s new strategic plan.
In January, members of UCO’s cabinet adopted Vision 2020, which establishes a vision for the next seven years. The effort is related to the arrival of Don Betz, who became UCO’s 20th president in August 2011.
Betz said UCO leaders understand that educators are in an era that encompasses the “new normal” of globalization, and breath-taking changes in information technology. It is time for current leaders to take the university to the next level, building on past successes, Betz said.
Consultants began by asking a common question of all UCO partners: “How can UCO offer a high quality, affordable education that focuses on student learning and success, and also create and expand partnerships within and beyond the metropolitan community?”
Betz said the plan is the result of months of thoughtful work, a process that involved obtaining ideas and objectives from more than 570 people. They included members of the president’s cabinet, faculty, staff, students and community stakeholders.
In the area of facilities, the plan recommends:
• Building a sustainable infrastructure;
• Communicating and acting on the campus master plan;
• Building new campus buildings: College of Fine Arts and Design, science, business, communications;
• Finishing the renovation of Old North;
• Building a student union with space that can’t be taken or bought;
• Modernizing buildings to meet the needs of student learning; and
• Creating innovative parking systems.
Other goals in the plan include increasing and enhancing better financial opportunities for students, developing a student-centered culture with amenities to meet student needs and building relationships beyond borders.
Betz said students are a central focus of the strategic plan. UCO continues to grow. On Wednesday, it announced a spring enrollment of 16,018 students, its second consecutive record-breaking spring semester. The new record tops UCO’s previous record by 1.2 percent, set last spring with 15,832 students.
Myron Pope, UCO’s vice president of enrollment management, said students are seeing the quality of the teaching and the value of getting an education at the university.
Given today’s budgetary and legislative realities, funding the recommendations could be a challenge.
Several months ago, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education voted to request $90.4 million in new state appropriations during the upcoming legislative session. The total higher education budget request for fiscal year 2014 is 9.47 percent higher than the current year’s appropriation.
Additionally, the State Regents are requesting $55 million for Complete College America performance funding needs. These funds would provide funding for additional course sections, full-time faculty and financial aid. They would also fund increased needs for information technology equipment, library resources and other operational needs to support near-record student enrollment.
Oklahoma colleges and universities are cutting operational costs, according to the State Regents. A total of $411 million in actual and projected cost savings has been identified from 2010-14 in technology and energy consumption, as well as in personnel costs and supplies.
As part of UCO’s goal to redefine itself as Oklahoma’s metropolitan university, the strategic plan seeks to build alternative funding structures and developing a university marketing/branding campaign to position a metropolitan university serving the region’s educational and service needs.
Betz said the next steps in the strategic planning process include four work groups of administrators, faculty and staff. They will establish specific measurable objectives and recommend budget allocations to support them. They will also identify who is responsible for realizing these outcomes.
During the coming year, work group duties will include defining what it means for UCO to be a “metropolitan university” and communicating that definition, according to a plan summary. By July 1 an Office for Institutional Effectiveness will be created. It will report to the president and cabinet.
The work groups will also ensure all resource allocations and all UCO operational plans are aligned with the strategic plan. UCO’s executive cabinet is responsible for implementing the plan.
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