UA Little Rock Chancellor Christina Drale outlined a vision and priorities for the metropolitan university on Friday (Oct. 9) in a speech to the University Assembly.
Drale has guided UA Little Rock through a year of transition as the school readjusted its enrollment goals, downsized its academic programs, and dealt with severe budget cuts. The university is projecting a $6.5 million loss this fiscal year, below an earlier forecast loss of $11 million.
“As you all know, the internal condition that was most pressing when I became chancellor last September was the rapidly growing loss in net position,” Drale said. “I am pleased to report that we are making good progress on rectifying this problem.”
The university had its most successful fundraising year to date, bringing in nearly $48 million, including an anonymous gift of $25 million to support the university’s strategic enrollment management plan. Drale said the success of the last year and improvement in financial stability will lead to a new approach to donor recruitment.
“For the first time this year, you are going to see a Holiday Wish List Campaign that allows academic departments to identify specific items for donor support,” Drale said. “This will bring in a lot of new donors and help departments connect with them in a more intimate way. In marketing, you will see more emphasis on supporting specific programs rather than generic institutional branding. We want the community to connect with individuals and their experiences at UA Little Rock, so our strategy there now reflects that.”
Drale outlined four priorities during her speech. They include:
- Enhancing access to higher education and enhancing student success;
- Developing, maintaining, and strengthening “the right mix” of liberal arts and pre-professional undergraduate and graduate programs;
- Growing research and creative work appropriate to UA Little Rock’s Carnegie research classification; and
- Promoting community engagement through educational programs, research and public service projects and programs, and athletics.
Despite the donor success, UA Little Rock suffered with enrollment efforts in large part due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This puts greater emphasis on increasing revenue from other sources and a continuing emphasis on lowering costs,” Drale said. “We are still seeing the effects of a cultural shift on the value of higher education. This year, 51% of our applicants chose to go nowhere for college. While some of that is undoubtedly COVID-related, we were seeing that trend already emerging last year. The emergence, this year, of a global pandemic, has made life harder for all of us, but in a real sense, it mainly exacerbates conditions we were already dealing with, and will continue to face.”
Drale said 2020 is “good and getting better,” but she said the ultimate measure of success would be graduates “who contribute to their communities and that employers want to hire.”
“The measure of our success will be a reputation for excellence and vital relevance to the community,” Drale said.