College Update – September 2012

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Dear Colleagues,

Now that the dust is settling on another fall term start-up, I have a few observations to share.

1. Start Right – We had some special challenges this term. For example, an unprecedented number of students registered, but were unable to pay for their classes, resulting in the largest deletion of registered students in our history. I am very proud of the way everyone handled this, from the business office to the Answer Centers, to the instructional divisions managing the class schedules. Thanks to all, we began with relatively little chaos, keeping our goal “to make the first minute of the first meeting of the first class a learning minute.”

2. In the end, enrollment is slightly down with some interesting redistribution among the campuses. The numbers won’t be firm until flex-start enrollment and other components are all added in, but for now I think it looks like headcount was just about flat and FTE down about 2%, or perhaps just a little less. This is consistent with national and statewide patterns and well within the boundaries of our budget planning.

3. There are many changes coming in the college’s facilities. Lake Nona is open and operational. It is a beautiful campus, with many thoughtful details designed to personalize the students’ experience and support their learning at every opportunity. Osceola Building 4 is rapidly moving toward completion by the end of the calendar year. It is an imposing presence on the campus and will add so much to the learning environment. On West, the new building (Building 10) will be open for Continuing Education, OIT and a few other things by January, as well, freeing up core space on campus for instruction and student support. Finally, the Foundation has successfully purchased a building near West that is about twice the size of the Downtown Center (DTC). It will be renovated and become the new district office by sometime next summer. The DTC will be put on the market shortly. The net effect of this deal is to increase space at reduced cost, get all of the district staff together in one place, and free up space on both East and West Campuses for core functions.

4. We were recently notified that Valencia is the only college in Florida to be awarded a Title III grant this year. The grant will focus on extending our work in improving new student success on West Campus. Thanks to the grant writing team, which included Dr. Joyce Romano, Dr. Falecia Williams, and many others, for continuing to fuel Valencia’s work with innovation.

5. There were solemn and meaningful events commemorating the 9/11 tragedy on all of our campuses yesterday. Thanks to the many organizers. The Osceola Campus event was truly extraordinary. You can read more about it in The Grove.

6. At Academic Assembly, I shared a long-time “working theory” on student success at Valencia – that the best predictor we had found thus far for graduation was success in the first five courses on first attempt. I promised we’d revisit the data and our Institutional Research team has begun to do so. While there is still some work to do, here are some preliminary findings:

  • 47.0% of students who succeed in their first five courses on first attempt go on to graduate
  • 24.0% of students who succeed in four out of five courses on first attempt go on to graduate
  • 12.2% of students who succeed in three out of five courses on first attempt go on to graduate

We’ll be studying the data more thoroughly as the term progresses, but even this preliminary work suggests how vital the first term or two can be, and how important the “Start Right” strategy is to our work.

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