In spite of cuts of more than $13 million, the university is heading in the right direction and should continue to improve and excel in a number of areas, Dr. Steven Tallant, Texas A&M University-Kingsville president told faculty and staff members during the annual convocation Monday, Aug. 22, in the Memorial Student Union Building ballrooms.
“I truly believe this is an exciting time for our university,” Tallant said. “We were the first university in South Texas. We have a tradition of access and opportunity.”
Tallant said the major challenge for A&M-Kingsville continues to be student retention and graduation rates.
“We continue to be low in these areas, when compared to other universities in Texas,” he said. “We have to fix this, but I think our goal should be student success. If we do that, retention and graduation rates will take care of themselves.”
Tallant said the university’s new Student Success Program would go a long way to assuring success in that area. The Student Success Program took the place of University College and will feature extensive tutoring and mentoring program that should help underclassmen fare better as they adjust to college life, he said.
Tallant said success would not compromise academics.
“We will do this by raising standards and providing the resources students need to be successful,” he said.
Tallant also thanked the university faculty and staffs for helping make sure budget cuts were implemented with the least possible damage to student services and academics. He said that through a variety of programs that included a “hard firing freeze,” a “voluntary separation program,” and a proposed one-week furlough in pay.
Only the first two were used, resulting in the elimination of 81 positions – 78 staff and 3 faculty – Tallant reported, noting that bigger cuts to pay and employees were avoided.
“Because of these cuts, three employees lost their jobs,” he said.
Tallant also reviewed some of the exciting things about the new year.
He was especially proud of the Honor College and the new dorm that will house those students, noting that the number of honor students grew from 25 to 300 over the past year.
He also reported on the new Vet Tech program, the new dorm and cafeteria, the redesigned parking plan and the completion of the new Faculty Handbook as items that would make the coming school year a successful one.