Anderson at Forum: We Are Trending in the Right Direction
At the first University Forum for the 2015 – 2016 academic year, AUC President Lisa Anderson relayed positive news about the University including turning the corner on the austerity budget, welcoming an “exceptionally strong” incoming class this fall and AUC being on par with the top 100 universities in the United States in terms of student acceptance rate.
“In many ways, the University has never been in a stronger position,” said Anderson.
In terms of finances, Anderson noted that although the University has planned for a balanced budget this year and the past year ended better than expected, “we still need to be cautious, and we’ll always need to be cautious,” she said. Brian MacDougall, executive vice president for administration and finance, will brief the AUC community on how the University budget came out last year after the external auditor review is complete, Anderson said.
In addition to budgetary improvements, admission rates continued to rise steadily, and this year saw a 6 percent increase over last year. According to the Office of Admissions, the University saw a 33 acceptance rate for its applications this fall, an indication of very high selectivity among applicants.
“This year saw the largest number of applicants we have ever had at AUC, which means that our acceptance standards were exceptionally high,” said Anderson. What’s more, “the acceptance rate puts us in the top 100 in the United States, so we’re competitive with the top U.S. scores, and our yield –– the number of students who were offered admission and also accepted –– is higher than Harvard’s.”
Anderson was quick to point out, however, that the University’s renewed focus on need-based financial awards, given to top-performing incoming students who would not have been able to attend AUC otherwise, did not impact the level of recruited students. The focus on need-based financial aid for top students does not affect returning or current students who are already enrolled, she explained. Over time, this shift enables the University to recruit a talented pool of students, regardless of financial ability.
In addition to the incoming class, AUC also welcomed new faculty members from diverse disciplines and backgrounds, although the cohort is smaller than previous years. “I’m sure they will add richness to our ranks and across all schools,” said Anderson.
With all these positive developments, Anderson pointed out that several initiatives and projects are underway to continuously improve and advance the University. These include completion of the work of several committees and task forces that have been drafting codes of community standards for the different constituents: staff, faculty and students; as well as completing an assessment of the University’s strategic enrollment management goals and strategies. With the assistance of an internal working group and external consultants, the assessment aims to define the shape of the student body and “how to get to where we want to be” in terms of achieving the most “desirable mix” of students. The consultants, Anderson noted, should finish their work before the end of the semester, developing a roadmap for the University on how to implement the recommendations.
In parallel with that project, a faculty task force is engaged with a consultant to review faculty compensation policies at AUC in light of best practice in the United States and, to some degree, in the region as well. According to Anderson, the consultant should complete his work in November, “so there will be an opportunity to discuss the recommendations,” she said.
Anderson also encouraged the audience to attend the forums organized by the presidential search committee to find the next president.