WSU budget gets new bottom line

3:49:01 PM CDT - Wednesday, July 19, 2006

By Amy Geiszler-Jones

Future state budget increases for WSU will depend on how well the university does in equipping more classrooms with technology, adding value to a student’s education, increasing the use of online databases, and preparing more science and engineering graduates, among other things.

Because of a state law, WSU has to enter into what are called performance agreements, which outline the university’s goals, with the Kansas Board of Regents, and strive to meet those goals in order to get any new state money in the future.

Earlier this month, WSU submitted a report on its three goals to the Kansas Board of Regents. Under the state law, Senate Bill 647, since July 1, 2005, any new funds doled out by the state hinge on how well each public postsecondary educational institution in the state does in meeting those performance agreements. WSU has had to submit such reports since 2003.

The performance agreements have to include at least three goals and no more than six, with one of those goals being to “improve learner outcomes,” according to Board of Regents documents.

Besides improving learner outcomes, WSU agreed that it would expand academic services for faculty, staff and students through development of new facilities and expansion of online services. WSU’s third goal is to respond to workforce needs by increasing the number of graduates prepared in the sciences and engineering.

Here’s some of what WSU is aiming for in its performance agreements:

• Increase the number of credit hours at its new West Campus from 16,022 student credit hours in 2006 to 17,784 by 2009. One way WSU plans to fulfill that goal is by increasing daytime classes and increasing collaboration with west-side businesses and high schools to use the new facility at 37th and Maize Road.

• Have all academic colleges use an electronic degree audit system, a sort of check-sheet, to make sure students are meeting graduation and degree requirements. Only three colleges were actively using such a system in the past.

This goal will require advisers to learn WSU’s new online business information system, called Banner, and change to a paperless way of validating a student’s degree requirements. “These attitude and business practice changes are the challenges that makes this indicator a stretch,” according to the report.

• Equip 45 more classrooms with technology capabilities by 2009. Currently 125 of WSU’s 336 classrooms have digital projection equipment.

• Make it easier for administrators, faculty and staff to compile statistics and reports on student demographics that may be needed for such efforts as recruitment or setting future goals and policy. Currently, most departments and colleges make requests to the Office of Institutional Research, which provides the data.

With the implementation of the WSU Information Network, the umbrella system of WSU’s new central, online business operating system, it’ll be easier for others to glean such data.

• Measure how much of an impact a WSU education has in adding “value” to a student’s skills through a national standardized test called the Collegiate Learner Assessment. While the CLA measures various skills, WSU has chosen to look at the value added to its students’ critical thinking and analytic reasoning skills as measures for the performance agreement.

That’s because those are two skills that employers consistently look for, said Martha Shawver, associate vice president for academic affairs and research. The CLA will be administered for the first time this fall to a random sampling of 100 incoming freshmen, and next spring to a similar sampling of seniors.

It’s an online essay-type test, according to Shawver, making it less likely to “teach to the test,” a criticism of assessments for K-12 schools.

WSU will continue to use another national standardized assessment, called the National Survey of Student Engagement, as it has in the past. NSSE, which also uses a random sampling of freshmen and seniors, looks at the kind of learning environment a university provides, the student’s perception of that environment, and how that experience compares to institutions similar to WSU.

• Increase the number of graduates in the math/sciences area and engineering fields by 5 percent for each of the next three years. Some strategies to meet this goal are to provide “retention scholarships” for students in mathematics, sciences and engineering degrees beyond their freshman year.

Another strategy includes increasing the number of Watkins Summer Fellowships, which are given to science teachers in high schools, community colleges and smaller four-year colleges to work with WSU scientists for a summer. Currently, two such fellowships are awarded. By 2009, eight would be awarded, according to the performance report. “For every fellow, we can potentially impact 100 high school or college students each year,” the report said.

For more about performance agreements, including previous institutional reports, go to www.kansasregents.org.

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