As we enter the horizon of a new academic year, it is essential that we build upon the momentum and leverage that we have created during the recent years. Our new enrollment this fall may reach 37,000 students, not because we have admitted more but because we are keeping more. This is a very good problem for our campus to address because this trend indicates that more of our students are enjoying their education experience; that our academic advising changes and improvements are working; and that the numerous student services that have been implemented are proving very helpful to our wonderfully diverse student body.
Financially, and fortunately for us, we also are beginning the year with a favorable state budget much like we did last year. Our 2007-08 budget helps us in numerous ways. First, this budget provides $14.9 million increase in general net state support which represents a 7.8 percent increase over 2006-2007. Second, Chancellor Reed and the Trustees were again successful in
negotiating an improved “marginal cost” formula increase for enrollment growth resulting in an increase from $7,225 per FTE last year to $7,710 per FTE this year. Third, the Cal Grant A and B awards have been increased by $252, which will impact over 17 percent of our students. Fourth, some additional nursing assistance funds have also been provided due to the overwhelming demand for more nurses in the field.
The federal budget is also a very good budget for our students. During the last year a great deal of struggling has culminated with the banking and student loan industry losing a lot of ground, which has meant that our students will be the recipients of much greater federal student aid assistance packages. In this budget Pell Grants substantially increased $260 and student loan interests rates are on the verge of being slashed for the benefit of our students.
Additionally, behind the leadership and support of our new Provost, we are moving forward with the recruitment of a new cohort of 70 outstanding faculty scholars. These faculty scholars will benefit even more than ever from our continued commitment to enhance our research capacity through increases in SCAC grants. Over the previous three years the number of faculty who have benefited from these grants has grown significantly, so we must work to find new resources that will not only help more faculty benefit from SCAC awards but will allow us to increase the actual average grant awards.
Another area that will receive a great deal of campus-wide attention this year is instructional technology. Unfortunately, we have not progressed as well as many other institutions with regard to the utilization of advanced technologies. Therefore, we must refocus our commitment on improving our access and usage of important instructional technologies to enhance our teaching and research. This will ultimately benefit both our students and faculty.
Enhancing the usage of instructional technologies will also help us provide a better internationally engaged campus environment for our students. To prepare our students for a globally interactive society, it is essential that we provide them with international education experiences and opportunities. This emphasis extends well beyond the classroom. It matters what our students read in the form of newspapers and other sources of global information. It matters what our students are exposed to and whether they consider if world issues are indeed their issues. Throughout the year you will be made aware of many campus opportunities, educational resources and events designed to improve our international understanding both inside and outside of the classroom.
While we work to implement these new campus-wide initiatives, we also remain committed to the internal classroom maintenance enhancement program which began last year.
This program was designed to address basic long-term classroom deficiencies and necessary upgrades which include dozens of “Smart Classroom” upgrades.
Last spring, the world also witnessed a violent university tragedy that shook our national conscious. The shooting at Virginia Tech reminded us all just how fragile and unpredictable society truly has become. To reassure the university community of the importance of campus safety, we committed over the summer to significant upgrades to improve our security on campus that includes new lighting, video monitoring, emergency text messaging, and many other additions. We have had a longstanding tradition of having a very safe campus and I assure you that we will continue to identify the best possible people and technologies to keep our campus as a very safe place to live, learn, and grow together.