After ticking through the records Lander University has broken this year — highest enrollment, highest student housing occupancy, largest freshman class — President Richard Cosentino asked the students and faculty that had packed the Abney Cultural Center Auditorium on Monday: What record remains?
In his State of the University address, Cosentino laid out a vision for continued growth that would not sacrifice the university’s intimate nature.
“Our faculty know all of your names, and we’re never going to grow where that isn’t the case,” Cosentino said. “We’re pretty much where we want to be right now.”
In fact, he said Lander would probably admit fewer students next year in an effort to keep total enrollment at its current level.
As the administration previously discussed with the university’s board of trustees, Lander will focus on growing the number of online students, graduates students, and students at its new satellite campus at the University Center Greenville, Cosentino said.
The university will soon debut new academic programs, new athletic teams and a “concierge service” — one number that students can text or call with any question they might have.
“Maybe not about life or who invented liquid soap,” Cosentino joked, “but about Lander.”
Students gasped as he shared a picture of Lander’s new e-sports facility, which is also set to debut soon. The campus also sports new tennis courts, and a picture of students protesting the conditions of the old courts flashed on the screen behind Cosentino.
“This is for real, this came to me,” he said. “So now you know how to get things.”
Cosentino also said he wanted Lander to become an “employer of choice” within Greenwood. The university has given its staff a 4.1% raise since November 2018, he boasted, about 2% of which was state-mandated but most of which came from Lander’s budget.
“Every year our employees are going to receive an increase and it won’t be passed onto our students,” he said.
In future years, Lander will focus on mental health initiatives, the safety and security of its students, reaccreditation, increasing compensation for its employees and strengthening ethics policies and procedures.
As for which record the college hasn’t broken, Cosentino said there was one.
In 1992, Lander boasted its highest ever freshman retention rate: 71% of new students came back for year two.
In 2018-19, 68% of freshman returned for their sophomore year. Cosentino said he hopes to break that record as well, with a targeted 73% freshman retention rates for 2019-20.