Board of Trustees approves new degree programs, university master plan

The BOT approved the termination of some master’s education programs, discusses increase in residential facilities, graduate data, and pandemic funding.

Board+of+Trustees+meeting+on+April+29%2C+2021

Board of Trustees meeting on April 29, 2021

Gillian Manning, Editor-in-Chief

On April 20, the university’s Board of Trustees — its governing body — met to discuss the university’s finances and goals for the future. The board approved the termination of multiple degree programs as well as the creation of STEM-related programs. Trustees discussed improving the Boca Raton and Jupiter campuses by adding additional residential and recreational spaces within the next 10 years. 

Recent Graduate Data

The school’s four-year graduation rate saw an increase, according to Larry Faerman, the acting vice president of student affairs and enrollment management. From 2016 to 2019, the rate of graduation was 37.4% but for the 2016 to 2020 period, that number is 47.5%.

“That is the fastest improvement in the nation,” said Faerman. 

Florida’s public universities receive their state funding based on points that are earned through their performance data which includes scores based on graduation rates, access rates, and more.

The university access rate, which is the percent of non-transfer students who receive the federal Pell grant, was 41.5% for the Fall 2019 semester. The initial goal for Fall 2020 and 2021 was 42% but due to the pandemic, Faerman proposed the goal decrease to 40%.

“Individuals with lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to be impacted [by the pandemic] and less likely to be retained at the institution because of financial changes,” said Faerman.

In 2020, the state gave FAU a score of 85 while Florida International University earned an 88, and the University of Florida earned a 90.

New Degree Programs and the CARES Act

The BOT agreed to terminate master’s programs in teaching English as a second language (TESOL) and bilingual education, social foundation of education, and early childhood education citing a lack of student enrollment.

A couple of degree programs endorsed by the board to be approved by the Board of Governors the governing body of the State University System. Degrees include doctoral programs in philosophy in neuroscience and a professional doctoral degree in philosophy with a major in computer science.

“Those who leave our program will be highly employable,” said Randy Blakely, professor of biomedical science and director of the FAU Brain Institute, a neuroscience research facility. 

Blakely stated that neuroscience is the fastest-growing STEM field and emphasized the importance of the neuroscience degree program.

“The tremendous importance of brain science is probably best seen by the sobering statistics that surround the prevalence and impact of brain disorders,” Blakely said. “Substance abuse and addiction have ravaged many communities across the country, Florida has been particularly hard hit.”

The university received $116,470,548 via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed by federal lawmakers in May 2020 to help universities and their students financially during the pandemic.

According to Dorothy Russell, the university’s interim vice president of strategic initiatives and chief financial officer, FAU has spent approximately eight million dollars to support the transition from traditional learning to fully remote learning and other pandemic-related expenses.

The university has a remaining balance of $61,799,700 and must spend that money by February 2022. 

“I think we’re well-situated for this year and beyond,” Russell said regarding finances, elaborating that the money will help fund upcoming projects and cover the money lost due to the pandemic.

The board reviewed and proposed some updates for the Boca Raton and Jupiter campus master plan. The master plan was formed by Hanbury, an architectural firm.

Hanbury president Keith Storms explained that one of their goals is to highlight the history of the Boca Raton campus. It used to be a U.S. military airbase and was involved in the development of radar technology during WWII. The plan features a new walking path that would have historical markers, detailing the campus history. The path is part of a larger goal to make the campus more “pedestrian-friendly.”

Storms also encouraged the creation of more casual outdoor spaces with shade from the sun that students can use for informal recreation and social activities.

He highlighted the Jupiter campus’s “long-term need for additional teaching and research laboratories to support STEM and research growth” as well as the “need for student center space to support residential growth” since they plan to increase the residential capacity from 288 to about 600 beds by 2030. Within the same timeframe, the goal is to make 9,000 beds available on the Boca Raton campus.

“This is our road map for campus needs in the coming years and my hope is that as we collaborate, we develop a monetized master plan so that can serve as a guide for fundraising. These projects that are associated with and reflected on this plan do not have associated funding,” said Stacy Volnick, vice president of administrative affairs and chief administrative officer.

FAU President John Kelly discussed the plans for in-person graduation ceremonies on April 29 and explained that those in attendance will be spaced out and follow all CDC guidelines.

“For me, it’s an exciting time. If we start to come back, we’re coming back. We’re not going to start showing up a little more, we’re going to come back,” said Kelly.

He stated that staff will be working fully in person on July 12 and faculty on Aug. 16. 

“We are reverting to what would look similar to Fall 2019,” Kelly said, “Our belief is that it’s time for our students to get back together, our faculty to get back together, and move on in what we believe is going to be a very safe environment.”

In-Person Safety

The university’s health and safety plan for Spring 2021 states that face coverings must be worn at all times unless an individual is alone in a private office or vehicle. It also states that individuals must maintain six feet of distance from others at all times.

During the board meeting, multiple attendees sat in the room together without wearing masks and congregated within a foot of each other.

On April 2, the CDC stated, “After you’ve been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, you should keep taking precautions—like wearing a mask, staying 6 feet apart from others, and avoiding crowds and poorly ventilated spaces.”

 

Gillian Manning is the Editor-in-Chief for the University Press. For information regarding this or other stories, tweet her @gillianmanning_ or email [email protected]