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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) at the Center of Entrepreneurship in Popplewell Hall Rm. 203.
As expected, Missouri Western’s undergraduate enrollment numbers are down for the 2016 spring semester. Currently, 4,374 undergraduates are enrolled this semester, down from 4,694 last spring. This follows after the university saw a drop in last semester’s enrollment numbers as well. Interim Director of Admissions Peggy Payne said the seven percent decrease was expected and natural during the spring semester. “We follow true to course in what we were looking at for fall, so we are down,” Payne said. “This is typical because if you’re down in the fall, it’s going to carry over into the spring, but strategically we put some actions in place that going in we knew would probably see a decline in enrollment.” Some of those actions that the university knew would affect enrollment involved changes to policies regarding admitted with conditions (AWC) students and who can live on campus. Starting in fall of 2015, only full-time students could live on campus. This meant that students who are admitted with conditions were only allowed to enroll part-time at MWSU and could no longer live on campus, deterring some from enrolling. Associate Provost Douglas Davenport said that an improving economy has also affected a particular portion of the MWSU’s student body and has contributed to the enrollment decline. “The group I would say where we do see some significant changes is the nontraditional student enrollment,” Davenport said. “So, for instance, those who are age 29 plus, that percentage is down 16 percent. So, there are fewer 30 year old students than the 25 to 29 age bracket that’s down 11 percent. So, when you look at this, while our first time full-time students are down, there is also this other fairly important component to our student population that is down. That we would presume is due, in part at least, to the economy. People are getting jobs, so they’re not staying in college.” With undergraduate student enrollment down, so are the number of credit hours they are taking. The total number of undergraduate credit hours is down 7.9 percent to 50,787 credit hours this semester from a total of 55,153 last spring. Again, this was a drop that was expected due to the decrease in fall enrollment. “You would expect that if you have a decrease in the fall, then it follows that you have a decrease in the spring,” Davenport said, “so those numbers are fairly consistent in terms of proportion. But yes, it is [a concern]. We’re not the only institution dealing with it, but yes.” State and national trends have not only shown that fewer people are going to college, but that high school graduating class sizes are getting smaller as well, which has affected many colleges. Payne said that while Western may not be exempt from the trends, recruitment efforts for the fall are doing well. “Our applicants for next fall are looking good,” Payne said. “However, trend-wise, demographics across the nations are showing what we thought was going to be until 2017, that graduating class sizes are declining, but now they are saying this is going to be extended until 2020. So that means that everyone is fighting for fewer students.” To help in the fight for recruiting students, Western will be using new tools in the near future. One tool is a customer relations manager (CRM) program which will help build a personal relationship with recruited students. Western will also be attempting to use data analytics to pinpoint any possible problem areas for students over the course of their college experience. Despite all the new technology and information out there, student success, Davenport said, is the most effective recruitment tool Western has. “To the degree that we can put our best foot forward, make sure that the students who are here are having a great experience and are successful, that is, to me, the best recruiting strategy you can have,” Davenport said. Only time will tell if Missouri Western can boost enrollment for the coming fall. Walk-in registration for fall classes is Aug. 23 and classes begin on Aug. 29.
A House bill with the potential to drastically change how state universities within Missouri operate their student health services will make its way through committee hearings this month, but it seems as though Missouri Western will be left unaffected. House Bill 2096, authored by Rep. Jason Chipman, R-Steelville, mandates that state universities will not be allowed to charge students with a health service fee if the student has proof of insurance. For many schools, there would need to be major reconfiguration of their budgets in order to compensate for loss of revenue. However, Missouri Western will be faced with little to no change. Pam Esely is in charge of Esry Health Center’s operating budget, and she feels there is little reason to worry about this bill. Western does not charge students with a health service fee upon registration like other schools, but rather charges each individual student for their own usage of the center. Currently, when one visits Esry a $25 charge is billed to the individual’s account; no other students are responsible for paying this service. For this reason, Rep. Chipman authored the bill after his experience attending the University of Missouri-Rolla. Chipman was enrolled in only six credit hours at the time, but still was required to pay the various campus fees, such as the health services fee. Chipman, a veteran, living off campus with a family and a full-time job, had full insurance coverage and never once used the on-campus health facility. “It didn’t make sense for me to go to the campus center when I had my own doctor covered through my insurance plan. So I asked myself, ‘Why should I pay for a service I’m not ever going to use?’ Other students were benefitting at my expense,” said Chipman. Chipman believes college students across Missouri are facing this same issue as he did. He argues that if students are already paying fees for insurance coverage, then they shouldn’t be charged additional fees that are not benefitting them. According to Esely, Esry is already in the process of moving toward accepting health insurance from students. When a student visits the center, their insurance provider would be billed for the service rather than the student. Students without insurance would be self-pay, just like at any doctor’s office. Whether or not the $25 service fee would be covered by insurance depends upon the provider. A representative for Coventry Health Care, a prominent health insurance provider in the Midwest, said that most insurance companies would probably view the $25 charge as a typical co-pay fee. If this is the case, then students would still be responsible for the service charge. “I applaud Missouri Western for taking this stance on having students pay for the service they receive. That’s how the world works,” said Chipman. Chipman hopes that through his bill other Missouri universities will adopt a method like what Western enforces, thus creating a fairer system for students and their money.
This semester Leigh Hefflers joins Western's financial staff as the new Bursar. Hefflers is responsible for overseeing many financial duties within the Business Office, such as supervising payment plans, refunds and the school's payroll. Hefflers also must stay informed on financial aid rules and regulations that apply to state and federal grants, scholarships and loan programs. The Bursar manages the school's Business Office, making sure the department is in compliance with school policies, procedures, and Title IX codes. Leigh Hefflers can be found in the Business Office located in Eder 104. Welcome to Missouri Western!