Eastern Michigan University’s Board of Regents held daylong proceedings Tuesday to discuss many issues including new programs, student success and loan debt.
Malverne Winborne, director of EMU’s Charter Schools Office, addressed the board about EMU’s recent low ranking as a charter school system at the Education Policies Committee meeting.
Winborne said EMU is actually outperforming traditional public schools. He said the school will continue to prioritize chartering efforts, especially among disenfranchised communities.
Rhonda Longworth, associate provost and associate vice president for Academic Programming and Services, presented EMU’s new entertainment design and technology program coming in fall 2013.
The program will involve existing courses and new ones offered by the university. The program is also geared toward students who want to work in the film industry.
Longworth said the program capitalizes on job opportunities.
The program will also help students carve out careers, including those in film, TV, online and media presentations.
A student success update was also presented at the meeting. The update focused on student success initiatives and graduation and retention rates. As it stands, the graduation rate at EMU is currently 38.5 percent. The university’s goal is to eventually increase the graduating student body to 50 percent.
“Financial aid is a critical part of the retention process,” EMU Provost Kim Schaztel said.
The initial draft for the Retention and Graduation Plan is set for August 2013, with faculty input due in September and final plans presented to the Education Policies Committee in December 2013.
At the Faculty Affairs Committee meeting, the key topic centered on how many faculty members EMU should employ.
Howard Bunsis, an EMU accounting professor, said EMU is special because of its significant amount of small class sizes. Bunsis said if the school would hire more full-time faculty members, it could have an effect on the graduation rate.
Bunsis said EMU’s retention rate is not where it needs to be.
“All the people who teach at Eastern are incredibly dedicated people,” Bunsis said. “We need more people teaching.”
At the Student Affairs Committee meeting, the main focus was financial literacy and student loan debt.
Kevin Kucera, associate vice president for Enrollment Management, and Cynthia Van Pelt, director of the Office of Financial Aid, did a presentation on student loan debt.
EMU’s average graduating student has a loan debt of $25,133, which is just a little less than the national average.
“The longer you wait to pay, the more you’re going to pay,” Van Pelt said.
Defaulting on student loans can increase the risk of being denied credit cards, home and car loans and even employment; banks could even refuse to open up new accounts for defaulters.
Students who don’t graduate are four times more likely to default, Van Pelt and Kucera said.
Van Pelt and Kucera offered some resolutions to raise graduation and retention rates, all of which could also halt future defaulting. The solutions included:
• Student engagement on campus
• Targeting at-risk students
• Encouraging on-campus employment
Van Pelt said they are there to help students find ways to stay notified and be knowledgeable about payment options and student loan debt.
The next set of board meetings is scheduled for April 16.
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