When Scott Jones, the provost at Lander University, met with representatives from Piedmont Technical College recently, they told him they steer their students looking for bachelor’s degree programs away from the University.
“It’s a difficult place to transfer to,” Jones told the Lander’s board of trustees on Tuesday.
To make transferring to Lander easier, Jones suggested eliminating several general education requirements, the courses every student is required to take before graduation.
Every college has different general education standards, Jones said, and that poses a problem for transfer students, who lose an average of 43% of their credit hours when they switch institutions.
Students at Lander have to take more general education classes than those at the average university, and Jones suggested removing mandatory electives and foreign languages. The change, he said, would give all students the opportunity to pursue additional majors and minors.
Trustee Dee Stone agreed but said the university should tread carefully.
Degree programs might take advantage of the fact that students have fewer required courses by expanding the number of credits students need in order to complete their majors.
Jones said he had already considered the possibility, and asked program heads to find ways to reduce the number of credit hours already required of their students.
The suggested changes are part of Lander’s push to make its graduates more competitive in the job market.
Students who double-major are more competitive in the market, Jones said, and Lander has hired consulting firm EAB to conduct research into new programs the university might offer that will produce the graduates employers need.
“This general education thing is one of the most important things we’re going to address in years,” President Richard Cosentino told the board.
During the previous day’s State of the University address, Cosentino told students, faculty and trustees about the enrollment records the school has broken in recent years. But his administration has yet to break the record for freshman retention, which was set in 1992 when 71% of first-years students came back for year two.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Boyd Yarbrough, vice president of student affairs, detailed one effort to make sure the members of this year’s record freshman class stay at Lander and eventually graduate.
New and returning students were welcomed to Lander with a five-day slate of events including pep rallies, trips to Lake Greenwood and faculty and staff meet and greets. City employees and officials were asked to help freshman move into their dormitories.
It was part of an effort, Yarbrough said, to “develop meaningful connections with the community.”
Lander Police Chief Greg Allen gave trustees an update on university security.
Allen said the university will beef up its officers’ ability to respond to an active shooter by implementing a system by which every external door can be closed and locked at the push of a button. He would also like to purchase ballistic shields so officers can confront an active shooter without risking their lives.
“You know we live in a very dangerous time when it comes to crazy people trying to harm our children,” Cosentino said. “If someone comes here, they’re going to deal with a formidable group.”
In other business:
— In November, the board gave Cosentino a stamp of approval: it substantially raised his salary while amending his contract to add “minimum automatic annual salary adjustments of 3.5% of the current year’s salary ... effective each Nov. 15th, unless the board decides otherwise.” The board unanimously approved Cosentino’s first 3.5% raise on Tuesday, worth almost $11,000.
— During his State of the University address, Cosentino said student housing is almost 100% full. Yarbrough provided more detailed numbers on Tuesday: 1,741 of Lander’s 1,750 beds are occupied. Additional spaces have been freed up by having students share rooms with resident assistants, who normally have rooms of their own. Four years ago, Cosentino said, Lander had almost 500 empty beds.
— A recent renovation to the dining hall made room for an additional 70 seats, but the administration is looking to add more. Vice President of Finance Stacie Bowie shared an architect’s recommendations for further expansion of the dining hall. And if a national food brand were to open on campus, it could draw a significant number of students from the overcrowded dining hall.