Inside Potter Hall, the band room carpet is stained and full of spit, there is a constant haze of sawdust in the air and the walls are weathered, yellowed and scuffed. Thanks to a recent donation, Potter Hall is getting a facelift that will drastically improve the appearance of the building. The Missouri Western Arts Society recently donated $32,000 to Potter Hall, which Dr. Bob Willenbrink, Dean of the School of Fine Arts, stated will be used in conjunction with House Bill 19 funding for building renovations. According to Willenbrink, the planned renovations include new flooring, ceiling tiles and paint in the hallways, stairwells and main instructional areas, like the band room. The HVAC system will also be replaced, which will improve the air quality and circulation, and the outside patio will be renovated to match the style of the Kelly Commons. Music student Jack Malo feels there is a pressing need for these updates. “If you go around to other buildings on campus, Potter is way behind in renovations. All of the items listed for the renovation are completely necessary just so Potter Hall seems more appealing to people auditioning here, and will make them want to come here more with nice, new facilities,” Malo said. Music student, Shian McBee shares a similar opinion. "[Potter Hall] is one of the most outdated buildings on campus in terms of its appearance, aside from the new bathrooms, of course." However, McBee believes the remaining funds should go toward accommodating the growing number of students rather than a new patio. As it currently stands, there is an increasing need for more studio and practice spaces, which vocal student, Lamont Broomfield, argues funds should be diverted to. Ultimately, Willenbrink hopes this simple renovation will make the building more attractive to potential donors so that the larger, more long-term renovations, such as adding studio space, can be accomplished. Director of Development Kim Weddle, who helped facilitate the donation, said this donation has been in development for over a year now. This time last year, the council, under former chairperson Bill Wright, voted to allocate a portion of membership dues towards Potter Hall renovations. The final amount of $32,000 was not predetermined, but was dependent upon the amount raised through membership dues. Willenbrink expects work to begin soon, with all projects planned to be finished in time for the Fall semester.
Missouri Western aquatic fanatics can swim happily now that the Board of Governors has voted to approve $600,000 for renovations to the M.O. Looney pool. The unanimous vote at Thursday’s meeting also finalized the funding partnership between the university and the City of St. Joseph. Cale Fessler, vice president for financial planning and administration, introduced the proposal to the governors, highlighting the benefits to the city and the need for university action. “The Looney pool would become an indoor recreation and competition pool, for use by the university, the city, members of the county,” Fessler said. “The city’s commitment is contingent, obviously, on the renovations of the pool.” The five-year agreement with the city is to use the pool during the summer months for community open swim, but requires the city to pay $61,000 for the first year of use. In subsequent years, the city will pay 37.5% of operations and maintenance expenses, estimated at $180,000 annually. President Bob Vartabedian specifically thanked the Student Success Act committee for the funding it provided. “As we found out, it was a little more expensive than we thought, and we couldn’t do that without students,” Vartabedian said about the Student Success Act committee vote that allocated funds to the Looney project. Of the $612,141 that the contract allocates for the renovations, $454,045 comes from the Student Success Act fund and $158,096 comes from University Operating Capital Major Renovation funds, a special renovation budget. “Our governing board stayed within it,” Vartabedian said, referencing the Board pushback toward the university’s plan to fill in the pool and create a recreational space. “We came close to filling in the pool, and you asked us not to do that.”
Just as Missouri Western tallied up the number of students attending this summer, the Admissions Office saw its number of employees increase by one. The new Associate Vice President of Enrollment Management and Retention Dr. Paul Orscheln began working at Western on Feb. 23. Orscheln is the first to hold such a position at Missouri Western. His job responsibilities include overseeing enrollment management, the Registrar’s Office, admissions and the recently formed Advising, Tutoring, Learning and Academic Support (ATLAS) group. While the position may be new to Western, it’s not for Orscheln, who has 17 years in enrollment management experience working at several universities across the country, including University of Central Missouri and Northern Arizona University. “It’s new for the institution [of Missouri Western],” Orscheln said. “That is my experience, so I’m excited to educate the campus about what enrollment management is really about and to integrate this unit with the rest of campus. I’m very excited about the opportunity to do that here in a new position.” Orscheln said that already he sees good things happening at Western and looks forward to working here. “I like the direction the institution is going,” Orscheln said. “It seems to be in a very good place. I want to help in any way I can and help the institution achieve its goals. I’m very excited to be here.”
For the projected 2017 budget, Missouri Western is expected to receive $1.2 million in performance based funding. However, not all Western students are taken into consideration of the university’s enrollment, potentially skewing the numbers. What is an AWC Student? Western is considered an open enrollment university with a 98 percent acceptance rate. However, students accepted at Western with an ACT score below 21 and a subjective high school grade point average (GPA) are considered admitted with conditions, or on academic probation. Students that are admitted with conditions are often limited to part-time enrollment status, and may be required to take remedial coursework to fulfill their academic requirements; students must also obtain a 2.0 GPA at the conclusion of their first semester to remain at Western. Remedial program placement is solely based on the student’s ACT scores. Director of Academic Advising and Student Success, Elaine Bryant, explains the AWC student’s academic transition to Western. “There are two different levels [of AWC student requirements]; one that is limited to seven hours and the other is ten hours, so it just depend on how much lower [the number of hours] and that determination is made in admissions. As students come through, as soon as they bring in their high school transcript and their ACT scores, that is when admissions will decide if they fall within that category where they are admitted with conditions,” Bryant said. “Usually when a student comes in, if they get below a certain GPA, then they are put on probation. Then the next semester they are put on a suspension if they continue to fall below the standards. With admitted with conditions students they are coming in with the probationary status,” Bryant said. Western students admitted with conditions have the opportunity to repeal the decision through letters of support from their professors; they also have the option to test out of the remedial coursework in order to progress towards full-time status, Bryant said. Graduation and Retention rates The overall retention rate of part-time students at Missouri Western has decreased over time. In the fall of 2012 Western had a retention rate of 50.4 percent. This fell to 39.5 percent in the fall of 2013 and fell once more in the fall of 2014, leaving the part-time retention rates at 35.8 percent. While the projected retention rates have decreased over the last three years, the number of AWC students coming to Western is also decreasing. The program was started with the intention to help students better transition into college, but the graduation rates of AWC students are less than satisfactory. From 2009, six year graduation rates of full-time students were 27 percent, while the six year graduation rate for part-time students sat at 4.8 percent, falling from the 2007 rate of 9.1 percent of part-time students obtaining degrees. Residential Stipulations Students admitted to Western under academic probation also have difficulty establishing a place of residence in the St. Joseph area. In the fall of 2015, Western residential life implemented a new policy to discontinue allowing part-time students to live in the residence halls. Director of Residential life Nathan Roberts believes this was an overall positive change to improve the quality of residential life. “As we worked through the year and saw some of the challenges with students on campus, whether it be conduct or lack of engagement, we started to do an assessment of who the students were that were that were getting in trouble and not being academically successful. We ended up realizing it was the part-time students. We did not target the AWC students; it was just where the line was drawn of who had too much time on their hands and who was not being academically successful. It was the part-time students that were having a rough time in a lot of different aspects of living on campus, so being a normal standard for what housing programs do, I proposed this would have an improvement to the atmosphere on campus and increase participation,” Roberts said. Financial Aid/Loans In addition to academic and residential limitations, AWC students also have a limited amount of financial assistance. Students that carry fewer than 12 credit hours a semester are ineligible for Access Missouri and cannot receive the full amounted Pell grant. Director of Financial Aid Marilyn Baker explains some of the options available for students admitted with conditions. “Any Missouri Western scholarships; if they are admitted with conditions, typically it is because their ACT score is fairly low, and/or their high school GPA. Typically, they probably wouldn’t have any academic scholarships from Missouri Western, but they may have external scholarships,” Baker said. “In order to get Pell grants, there really is no stipulation on hours. So if a student is not full time, and they’re taking nine hours, we would prorate it down to nine hours,” Baker said. Students must maintain at least six credit hours each semester to remain eligible for prorated Pell grants, but the academic stipulations have no impact on a student’s eligibility for Western’s work study program. Performance Based State Funding All publicly funded Missouri colleges and universities must submit an annual report of graduation and retention progress to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Database System (IPEDS) to determine the institution’s eligibility for additional performance based funding. The number of full-time students in the institutions cohort that complete their degree within a six year time frame is a determining factor of how much the institution will receive. However, the graduation rates of students that remain at less than a 12 credit hour course load are not factored into the university’s cohort. “Any student that is part-time and not 12 credit hours or more is not figured into our performance based funding, whether they are AWC or any part-time student,” Bryant said. How does this affect Western’s cohort? Western’s performance funding is based on the number of students in the cohort returning to the university from one fall semester to the next. The dynamic of Western's student cohort consists of full-time, first time degree seeking undergraduates taking on at least 12 credit hours each semester. Part-time students and those who are admitted with conditions are not factored into Western’s cohort, and are not a factor in the performance based funding, regardless of the graduation statistics. Other open enrollment universities Academic probationary programs are not exclusive to Western; however, the limitations to part-time status is something specific to Missouri Western. For example: at Lincoln University, in Jefferson City, Missouri, academic probation consists of the limitation of 13 credit hours and a 2.5 GPA at the conclusion of the semester, limiting the student’s academic course load but not excluding them from the institution’s cohort. Harris-Stowe University in St. Louis, Missouri also abides by a similar policy, but neither university has a contingency policy for student applicants that do not meet their institutions baseline standard.
On Feb. 22 it was announced that the Bradley Family, owners of the News-Press & Gazette Company, would donate $300,000 to Missouri Western. This funding will be used to help Western students and alumni either start or maintain current businesses within St. Joseph. This program was established by the Bradley Family with the focus on aiding students, alumni and the St. Joseph community. “We would love to see a company flourish in the region, grow and provide jobs,” said Brian Bradley. “We want to keep businesses in the region while giving students the opportunity to run their own businesses and gain practical experience.” Dr. Michael Lane, Dean of the Craig School of Business, claims this loan will keep businesses operating that would otherwise close. “We’ve seen three or four local businesses close within the last year and now we have the opportunity to […] help these businesses survive,” said Lane. If a business owner is wanting to retire and sell their business, they can contact the Craig School of Business who will help someone purchase the business through the Bradley Loan Collateral Program. How the Loan Works According to Annette Weeks, the Director for the Center of Entrepreneurship at the Craig School of Business, there are only two eligibility requirements for this loan: one must have a direct tie to Missouri Western, and one must have a viable business plan prepared. When those interested apply, Weeks will be the first to review the proposed business plan. Then a committee will evaluate, critique, and discuss the potential the applicant’s plan has. If the committee decides to fund the applicant, then the applicant must be approved for a business loan. If a bank is willing to support the applicant, the committee will aid the student by providing a deposit or down payment, which acts as collateral to secure the bank loan. Often acquiring the deposit is the hardest part of starting a business because it demands applicants to have a significant amount of cash or assets available to invest. Weeks said that this program helps to eliminate the financial hurdle applicants face by providing the necessary funds to get started. “This is a great opportunity for students and alumni… because sometimes you’ll have a great idea for a business but you won’t have that down payment. Now students can achieve something they wouldn’t have been able to do otherwise,” said Weeks. Lane explained that each applicant is limited up to $100,000, which is why this program is structured as a collateral loan program. Once the business is operating, the applicant will repay the school’s loan at a low interest rate and the funds can then be used for another applicant. The Bradley Loan Collateral Program will not interfere with the current franchise program through the Craig School of Business, according to Lane. “They are entirely different things,” said Lane. “With the franchise program, students enroll in the class, create a business plan, and compete for a franchising opportunity currently available.” In the past students have been awarded an opportunity to start a Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory, for example. Applying for the Loan There is currently $100,000 in funds available right now, then each year an additional $100,000 will be given until the $300,000 pledge is fulfilled. Depending on the success of the program, Brian Bradley said that this might be something the family continues to fund at Missouri Western for the future. Those interested can apply for assistance if they meet the requirements by contacting Annette Weeks (email@example.com) at the Center of Entrepreneurship in Popplewell Hall Rm. 203.