Campus Strategic Planning: Internal Factors

Internal factors of WSU Tri-Cities are important to determine our current status and where we need to improve.

Thank you for your contribution to the WSU Tri-Cities Strategic Plan.  This “Baseline Case Study” was compiled so that we may have a common reference to work from.  As a way to begin the conversation, I would like to reflect some observations with you.

Since arriving Spring of 2017, I have developed a strong appreciation for the sense of community WSU Tri-Cities holds.  Everyone cares about the work we do, the importance this campus holds, and the people we serve.  Much of my time spent with students, faculty, staff, and community members’ results in conversations surrounding the campus’ sustainability, relationship, adaptation, relevance, and pride for our community as Cougar Nation!

Relationship

It was clear to me from the interview process that relationship is a very important value for both the campus and the system.  Since my arrival, my efforts have centered on getting to know faculty, students, staff, and community members both by listening and by communicating.  Monthly, Rebekah Woods, Columbia Basin College President and I work together to ensure clear communication and partnerships between our institutions. I have also established relationships with the presidents of Big Bend, Walla Walla, and Yakima Community Colleges.

Additionally, I have established shared governance through the Chancellor’s Leadership Council that will include elected representative from across the campus including the resident faculty organization, administrative professionals, civil service employees, students, CAHNRS Assistant Dean, BSEL Director, and the Medical School Associate Dean.  Most importantly, our students value the relationships we, as faculty and staff, hold with them in the pursuit of their dreams.  In each of these situations, maintaining relationships at all levels will be essential for moving into the future.

Sustainability

President Kirk Schulz announced last year that each department in the WSU System would have to reduce expenditures by 2.5 percent cumulatively each year for the next three to five years to restore reserve accounts.  WSU Tri-Cities has had trouble achieving this goal by deficit spending to the tune of $2M per year.  Thus, not only do we need to build a reserve, we must cut spending and increase revenues just to achieve a balanced budget.

Several management strategies are employed to temporarily control spending; however, sustainability requires more.  Sustainability requires a common set of values from which to prioritize and guide our planning from the bottom of our campus to the top.  These values will allow our campus to address challenges greater than controlling spending but leading to new revenues and increased enrollment.

Contributing to the sustainability equation is planning for growth.  Our infrastructure and services cannot keep up unless there is clear planning and investment.  We are fortunate to have a new academic undergraduate building in the pipeline; however, we need to use existing properties and space to their potential in order to facilitate growth.

Adaptation

George Garlick, a founding Dean of WSU Tri-Cities, tells many stories with one that sticks out to me.  He was advocating for his engineering Ph.D. students needing to make accommodations for their residency requirement.  George worked with the University of Washington, Oregon State University, Central Washington State University, and Washington State University with great frustration.  In the end, he arranged a donor to fly the students from Tri-Cities to the Pullman campus in order to meet the requirements resulting with some of the first graduates from our campus.

Yes, George, was persistent but he exemplifies the ability to adapt to the situation.  We too must adapt in order to be responsive to our community, the economy, and the needs of our students.  Our planning must not be stagnant or left to others to enact. Rather, our planning must be cyclical, ongoing, and engage everyone throughout our journey.

Relevance

Nationally, universities find themselves needing to demonstrate relevance to their respective communities and legislatures to bolster support.  WSU Tri-Cities has the benefit of great community support because of our value to industry and quality transformational education; however, we must never take this support for granted.  We must demonstrate how we bring value to our students, economy, research, and community in our actions. By doing this, we will create connections, garner trust, and remain relevant to our community.

Cougar Nation Pride

Within a week of my arrival, I was greeted by WSU alumni on the street, in restaurants, and in meetings with the Coug-Nation mantra, “Go Cougs!”  At the conclusion of my first public address, I was accosted for not ending the speech with, “Go Cougs!”  Since arriving, I have now begun to understand that “Go Cougs!” means that you belong to our community because of your loyalty, perseverance, and service.  It is an encouraging statement signifying that you have risen to the test and met the challenge with pride. What an important part of our culture that must be cultivated!

It is with this spirit that I encourage our campus and community to rise to the challenge by:

  • Bravely looking within to understand who we are before we decide where we need to go;
  • Shifting from reactionary to pro-active planning;
  • Aligning our actions to our values; and,
  • Identifying transformational shifts in how we prepare for the future.

As we journey through this planning process, I will listen carefully considering input from all voices.  Upon completion, I will share what I have learned and the vision we have created together.

Go Cougs!

Sandra Haynes, Chancellor

This community-built Washington State University Tri-Cities. It was born out of necessity, determination, and imagination. In 1946, in the shadow of World War II, General Electric started the Graduate Center for Nuclear Engineering, to educate the next generation of nuclear engineers at the Hanford Site. For the next 43 years, what is now WSU Tri-Cities produced engineers, chemists, environmentalists and business professionals that led the state and nation during the cold war and our transformation to a burgeoning metropolitan region of Washington state.

In 1958, the campus name was changed to the Joint Center for Graduate Study, a consortium of Oregon State University, the University of Washington and Washington State University. In 1968, under the leadership of George Garlick, the campus moved from its original location on Lee Boulevard in Richland to a new building on land donated by the Atomic Energy Commission located along the Columbia River. That new building would later be called the current East Building.

During planning discussions in the mid-1980s, community advocates ensured the transformation of what was then the Tri-Cities University Center, to a consortium of five universities in a one-building campus. It was on May 10, 1989, that the state Legislature formally established WSU Tri-Cities as one of four campuses that make up the Washington State University system. With a foundation of 43 years of graduate programs for Hanford engineers, WSU Tri-Cities added junior- and senior-level courses and a mixture of graduate degrees in academic areas from business to the liberal arts.

Local business and community leaders rallied again about 12 years ago, requesting that the state Legislature increase higher education opportunities in our area. In fall 2007, WSU Tri-Cities began offering freshman and sophomore courses to become a full four-year institution. In 2016, WSU Tri-Cities added Running Start programs, which allow high-achieving high school students the opportunity to earn dual college and high school credits.

Along with WSU Vancouver, WSU Spokane, WSU Global, and WSU Everett, WSU Tri-Cities provides access to higher education and enhances economic development as part of a land-grant, comprehensive research university.

An entrepreneurial spirit and innovative approach allow our campus to provide the type of student experiences usually found at private colleges, such as hands-on project-based learning, strong connections with faculty and researchers and opportunities to lead. Amazing things are accomplished when community partners and WSU Tri-Cities come together, turning our collective vision toward student success and the greater needs of the region.

Campus Overview

The WSU Tri-Cities campus is a campus community located on 200+ acres on the shores of the Columbia River. WSU Tri-Cities campus currently serves the Tri-Cities community and beyond, offering undergraduate and graduate degrees in a broad spectrum of disciplines.

In addition to the five academic buildings on campus, a student union facility was completed in 2017. And a phased student housing project is underway with phase one completed in the summer of 2018.

A new 40,000 square foot academic building is currently in design. It will include general classrooms, instructional labs and faculty offices. The project is scheduled for completion in Summer 2021.

Existing Conditions

As the campus ages, more space will transition into high-risk categories require major renovation. Anticipating these needs, a review was conducted by a third party (Sightlines). Their report estimates the cost of a preventative maintenance program to be $42.2 million over the next ten years. Over the past five years, $7.5 million has been invested in repairs and minor improvements of campus buildings.

Capital investment is insufficient to meet campus needs. To stay ahead of campus deferred maintenance alone, the capital team estimates the annual investment target at $3.3 million. The institution currently has no capital reserves but receives limited funds from the state for minor capital projects.

Strengths of Our Physical Campus

WSUTC enjoys a beautiful and geographically strategic location. The community is supportive and partnerships with industry are strong. The last decade has brought significant campus development. And there is plenty of room for further growth as programming evolves at Tri-Cities.

The Challenge

This growth, however, has created a different problem. The rate of growth of the physical campus has not been matched by an increased capacity to maintain it. The WSUTC administrative team will need to address this delta in their long-range planning.

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On-Campus Housing

The addition of On-Campus Apartments should change the future of Student Life, once we have a larger cohort of students living there. We haven’t seen a huge shift yet, but there are a couple of students who have begun to ask questions about how the campus can serve them better, now that they live on campus. With the addition of housing, we have added After Hours Programming, which consists of programs that occur later in the afternoon (post 4 pm) Monday-Friday. The goal is to provide some programming to engage students in the afternoon and try to keep students on campus a little later into the afternoon

Student Union Building

This year we have seen a tremendous increase in usage of the Student Union Building since its opening in Fall of 2017. In Fall 2018, the number of students regularly using the building is about triple that of Spring 2018. The increase is, in large part, because the building was open for the start of the academic year and the addition of a fully functioning and vibrant Coffee Shop. Students are actively using all spaces within the building for spending time before, between, and after class. They are using the space for activates such as video games, group projects, studying, pool, and much more.

Associated Students of Washington State University Tri-Cities

Continues to mature as an organization and evolve from being an event focused on advocacy focused. They increased their Senate size to include more at-large or University Senator positions to help advocate for the big university issues. They have created a 5-year plan which lays out their hope for their organization moving into the future. The 5-year plan is the first step in moving towards a more future-focused and data outcomes-driven organization.

Student Entertainment Board

The Student Entertainment Board provides activities for students to enjoy the campus and the greater Tri-Cities/Washington Community. They plan and organization about 20 events each year to help entertain students for much-needed study breaks.

Moving the Student Entertainment Board under the Student Union, removing it from ASWSUTC, allows for the Student Union to grow beyond a building and for ASWSUTC to focus on advocacy efforts instead of programming

Areas for Growth

Outside of a small group of students who attend many of the events hosted by SEB, ASWSUTC, or Student Life, most students do not attend any extra or co-curricular events. There persists a culture among students to come to class and leave campus immediately after. There aren’t too many students who decide to “hang out” on campus. Hopefully, with the increased activity and programming that is happening in the SUB, this culture will slowly change, and we will continue to see more and more students finding themselves utilizing all that campus has to offer.

Student Satisfaction

A community satisfaction score was computed for each respondent (Meiers, 2010). This score is used for demographic comparisons and overall performance. The score has a range of 16-93 where 50 indicates an average level of student satisfaction. The mean community satisfaction score for all respondents was 57.5 and relatively flat from last year. Mean scores, standard deviations, and significance levels based on the demographic questions can be found in Table 6.

When comparing demographic items, there were no significant differences in the demographic categories. Historically academic level and first-generation status have shown significant differences.

89.5% of students would recommend WSU Tri-Cities to a friend or family member. This result is slightly down from 93% in 2017. Appendix C provides verbatim comments about why students would not recommend WSU Tri-Cities. A majority of the comments focus on facilities,instructional and facility quality of course labs, and course availability. The general results of the 2018 Annual Student Satisfaction Survey Report conducted by the Office of Student Affairs identified five areas of impact:

  • Students are treated the same regardless of race, color, creed, religion, national origin, ancestry, gender, age, sexual orientation, disability, veteran status, marital status, gender expression, and gender identity.
  • The environment at WSU Tri-Cities is friendly and supportive of students.
  • WSU Tri-Cities has a positive image in the area.
  • Students at WSU Tri-Cities are free from sexual harassment.
  • It is easy to approach faculty at WSU Tri-Cities.

The following items showed the highest magnitude of the correlation between satisfaction and

importance (Table 4 of the 2018 Report). The faculty item is a new addition to the top 5 this year:

  • It has been beneficial for me to be a member of a student organization at WSU Tri-

Cities.

  • Students have a sense of pride at WSU Tri-Cities.
  • There is a feeling of community at WSU Tri-Cities.
  • It is easy to approach staff at WSU Tri-Cities.
  • It is easy to approach faculty at WSU Tri-Cities

Academic Advising and Course Availability

There are significant differences in satisfaction of course availability (Table 8). The overall differences are presently based on the high level of satisfaction of non-degree students and Business, Liberal Arts, and SEAS students indicating lower levels of satisfaction in course selection. Satisfaction for Liberal Arts students did significantly increase the satisfaction of course availability from 2017 to 2018.

There are no significant differences in satisfaction of academic advising based on college (Table 9), with the exception of SEAS students who indicated a significant decrease in academic advising satisfaction from 2017 to 2018.

Study Space

Students who can find a satisfactory place to study stayed the same compared to last year ((Table 11). The most commented categories were students are finding difficulty in finding a quiet study space, the library is a great resource but is too noisy for studying or they want another place outside of the library, or students prefer studying at home. Appendix D provides comments about study space. Most of the comments are focused on availability and noise levels in study spaces around campus.

Student Organizations and Involvement

Students that indicated that they were involved in a student organization continues to decrease (Table 12) and needs further analysis. Overall satisfaction between involved and non-involved students is marginal. Appendix H provides comments about student involvement. The most commented themes tend to be about students not having enough time to be involved due to work or lack of interest.

Student Work Habits

Students, on-average work 13.9 hours a week on campus and 22.1 hours a week off campus (Table 14). Overall, students work on average 28 hours a week and continue to rise from the 2017 survey. 58% of the respondents indicated that working is necessary to support themselves and their families during the academic year.

Financial Insecurity

35% of the students indicated that they had had some levels of difficulty meeting their daily living expenses during the last 12 months (Table 17). 4.6% of the student population indicated that they had had housing insecurity issues this year. Both of these items are slightly up compared to last year. 13.6% of the student population is responsible for providing childcare (Table 21).

Two-Term Registration

The 2017-18 academic year was the first year that most of the WSU Tri-Cities undergraduate student population could enroll in the fall and spring semester at the same time. 43.6% of the respondents indicated that they did it and 95% of those respondents indicated that they are likely to do it again (Tables 17-18). Appendix E provides some verbatim comments about the

On-Campus Housing

9% of the survey participants indicated that they are likely to utilize the on-campus housing (Table 20). Appendix C provides verbatim comments and the most common themes related to not considering on-campus housing is that the student already has housing or the cost of living on-campus.

Student Union

42% of the student population utilize the student union building (Table 22). Appendices J and K provide verbatim comments. Most of the comments are related to not having a need to use the student union, crowding in areas, and the need to address the service in the coffee bar.

ASWSUTC/SEB Section

Students find out about events through multiple methods (Table 18). The awareness of ASWSUTC and SEB attributes are consistent in addition to satisfaction (Tables 19-20) Verbatim Comments Students provided numerous verbatim general comments about their experiences at WSU Tri-Cities (Appendixes B though O). In terms of themes, the most commented themes were:

  • Course selection and availability
  • Academic facilities
  • Food Service
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Introduction

The relatively recent evolution of WSU Tri-Cities into a fully comprehensive university campus (2006) has not been without growing pains. The institution struggles to meet existing operational costs that include past missteps and unfunded overhead costs. Further, the development of stable revenue streams has not kept pace with campus growth. As a result of these narrowing margins, WSUTC is now threatened by dwindling reserves, deferred maintenance, and a limited capacity to realize strategic objectives.

Our History

Past Commitments – As WSUTC sought its path, many initiatives were explored with varying degrees of success. While most of these were both successful and sustainable, many proved to be successful but not sustainable. And still, others were found to be unfeasible altogether. The campus remains saddled with annual legacy costs from these programs including roughly $1.3 million/yr from continuing contractual obligations (agreements, leases, salaries, etc.).

Facilities and Infrastructure – The physical campus has a large footprint – over 200 acres and six buildings. However, as four of these buildings were funded largely by donors and industry partners, the state does not provide funds for their maintenance and operation (M&O). And while the shortfall is partially offset by contributions of partner organizations who occupy spaces on campus, it is far short of the actual costs incurred to operate them (est. $1.9 million difference).   

Program Mix – The Tri-Cities campus is well positioned to advance WSU’s research initiatives and goals (Drive to 25). We enjoy strong partnerships and robust programs of research and postgraduate education. Such programs, however, are expensive to maintain and cannot generate adequate revenues to cover their costs. Typical university model would subsidize this advanced programming with revenue from a healthy and efficient undergraduate program. In these early stages of growth, however, WSUTC has had limited capacity to build such a comprehensive model. Undergraduate enrollments are on the rise, but to date, we have failed to grow an adequate base to support our research programs and the infrastructure they require.

Our Status

The financial position of WSUTC can be summarized as deteriorating and narrowly solvent at present. We have made serious reductions in operating budgets across campus. However, unless our recent practices of deferred maintenance are continued, expenses threaten to eclipse revenues – creating an annual deficit of roughly $2 million.

Operating (Performance)

A five-year trend analysis shows growth in revenues has not kept pace with rising expenses. In FY2018, total revenues fell short of expenses by $76k. In 2018, revenues of $23.5 million were collected from three major sources – State allocation, tuition collected, and overhead charged for grants and administrative services. Employee salaries and benefits account for more than 80% of expenses and the remaining expenses are spread among goods and services (typical for institutions of higher education).

Fund Balances (Position)

Fund balances are accumulated from excess revenues over expenses annually. For institutions of higher education, recommended balances of unencumbered funds are generally thought to be 25-50% of annual operating expenses. The primary purposes for maintaining fund balances are a) emergency reserves, b) operational liquidity, c) one-time expenses and d) capital projects. At WSUTC there is no minimum reserve requirement set by policy. Closing balances have varied between $13 million and $3.5 million over the past five years.

 Our Future

The Chancellor and executive team at WSUTC understands the financial landscape and is committed to resolving and stabilizing the financial model. Concerns identified above will be eliminated or mitigated with integrated planning, diligence and data-informed decision making.

Financial Goals

  • Eliminate debt and encumbrances (currently totaling $3.4 million)
  • Establish healthy reserves of 30% total (w/ 10% emergency)
  • Establish a capital sinking fund for repairs, maintenance, and construction ($.5 million/year)

To accomplish these ambitious goals, the team will consider all options. Stakeholders, both internal and external, will be engaged to generate a wide range of potential strategies. Some strategies already under consideration include the following.

Potential Strategies

  • Build sustainable enrollment growth
    1. Undergraduate programs
    2. International students
  • Partnering to create efficiencies providing support services to campus and students.
  • Explore user fees to generate additional revenues (technology, parking, etc.)

The financial challenges currently facing WSU Tri-Cities are to control spending, generate new and stable revenue sources, become selective about program growth and begin to establish healthy fund balances. The task is manageable but will require corrective action, sacrifice, creativity and smart management of resources.

*Supporting detail available

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Our History

WSU Tri-Cities Information Technology (WSUTC-IT) has changed dramatically over the years but has always maintained the highest level of service to the campus community.  The department now encompasses Computing & Telecommunications, Integrated Academic Technology, and the Copy Center. It also provides oversight of campus shipping & receiving as well as campus motor pool services.

Responsibilities

WSUTC-IT is responsible for all forms technology throughout every WSUTC facility. Those responsibilities include, but are not limited to:

  • Computing & Telecommunications: Campus network infrastructure, VOIP, computer labs, classroom computers, helpdesk.
  • Integrated Academic Technology: Campus video conferencing scheduling & support for both academic and non-academic events, administration of teaching software, classroom technology setup & support, digital displays, special event recordings and technology design & installation.
  • Copy Center: Printing services via leased machines throughout campus, computer lab printing, large format printing, canvas printing and mounting, shipping & receiving and motor pool.

Staffing

In spite of understaffing (two unfilled positions for the past 2.5 years), WSUTC-IT continues to provide a high level of service to the campus. A key objective is to make the technology as invisible as possible so that students, faculty, and staff can complete their jobs. However, with current staffing and funding levels, there is little capacity for additional services without compromising existing services.

Staffing levels:

  • Director
  • CTC: 5 staff members and 3 work studies
  • IAT: 3 staff members and 2 part-time
  • Copy Center: 2 staff members and 1 part-time

Existing Conditions

Challenges: Several areas of our campus network infrastructure are in desperate need of upgrading.

  • Nursing and ICB facilities both require upgrades for the campus uplink.
  • Floyd and East need a modern Ethernet cable.
  • The entire campus needs upgraded network switches to support gigabit port speeds.
  • WSC needs a direct connection to the campus (currently leasing).
  • Networked printers in computer labs are beyond end-of-life.

Other equipment at or beyond their end-of-life: servers, telephone, digital displays, digital display players, 70% of classroom projectors.

The director of IT estimates the necessary investment to meet these challenges to be $500,000 over the next 5 years. A source of funding is not identified.

Strengths: Classroom computers were upgraded in 2018. Classroom podiums were upgraded in 2017. Videoconference enabled rooms meet or exceed the minimum standards (A model currently being adopted by the university system). The campus community is satisfied with WSUTC-IT’s response time. Demand on campus VOIP infrastructure is still well within capacity.

Funding

Campus technology has been underfunded for over a decade with little thought for what the impact will be. The IT Director has identified a “mission critical” budget that would ensure that minimal services can continue to be provided. However regular goods & services budgets for each unit barely cover the costs of ongoing maintenance and replacement of campus technology. WSUTC students do not pay a technology fee. And there is no segregated funding for technology on campus.

Our Future

The entire WSUTC community is proud of the growth we have had over the past decade both in students and physical development. However, the rate of growth has not been matched by an increased capacity to maintain the technological infrastructure. WSUTC-IT will need additional funding to support existing activity on campus and provide for the demands of future students. WSUTC long-range planning will need to address this concern.