UA provost: Enrollment growth came short on planning | Arkansas Blog

Friday, April 25, 2014

UA provost: Enrollment growth came short on planning

Posted By on Fri, Apr 25, 2014 at 8:50 AM

SHARON GABER: U. of Memphis president candidate.
  • SHARON GABER: U. of Memphis president candidate.
Sharon Gaber, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Arkansas, is a finalist for president of University of Memphis and the subject of UA growth came up during interviews in Memphis Monday.  The Commercial Appeal reports:

Gaber highlighted both growing enrollment and graduation rates during her tenure as provost at the University of Arkansas.

In five years, enrollment at the University of Arkansas boomed 40 percent, Gaber said. But most of that growth came so fast that the university also needed to develop new strategies for dealing with the additional students.

“There wasn’t a lot of planning that went along with it,” she said. “So how were we going to work with that? Because we were almost at a situation where faculty were not pleased that we had opened the floodgates and students were coming in.”

Gaber said she worked closely with the chancellor, students and faculty to develop policies that would work for the growing university.

We also know that UA bookkeeping  failed to keep pace with demands during that time period.

The article relates an anecdote Gaber told about counseling a student who'd failed a course required for graduation 10 times.

“When you fail a class 10 times, it may suggest that you have this other aptitude or opportunity,” she said. “No one necessarily wants to hear that, but I also don’t want to take this student’s money.”

UPDATE: Be sure to check reader comments. A regular reader in Fayetteville offers data to debunk Gaber's claim of improving graduation rates at UA and also suggests the university has been guilty of exaggeration elsewhere.

UPDATE II: Steve Voorhies provided a UA response this afternoon:

I don’t think the university is exaggerating anything. The graduation and retention numbers are posted online for anyone to see and interpret. You have the link yourself.

Yes, the goal set for 2015 was very ambitious. No, it probably won’t be reached. But as with past goals (enrollment, for one) setting them high is more likely to lead to improvement than setting them low.

Overall, we’re pleased that we’ve made progress – 2 percent improvement is progress – but we’re far from satisfied.

Working to raise the graduation rate is obviously the right thing to do, for our students and for the state. Since setting the graduation rate goal the university has steadily increased its efforts to provide the resources and support – academic and financial — to help students stay in school and succeed in school. The most recent is creating a position of vice provost for graduation and retention to coordinate and further improve these efforts.

The graduation goal has not changed.

He also suggested readers might be interested in viewing what Gabert "actually said in Memphis, as opposed to what was reported and inferred." If so, here's a link to Memphis video.

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