Hitt addresses UCF community
President hosts State of the University
Published: Wednesday, September 26, 2012
Updated: Thursday, September 27, 2012 09:09
UCF President John C. Hitt made his annual State of the University Address to a group of more than 450 students, faculty and community members on Tuesday afternoon in the Pegasus Ballroom.
His 28-minute speech touched on the importance of UCF’s continuous growth and its ability to maintain high-quality education while receiving severe budget cuts. In the past five years, UCF has lost 49 percent of its state support, he said.
“In the decade from 2001-02 to 2011-12, the average SAT score for the freshman class increased 98 points from 1152 to 1250. The number of National Merit Scholars involved with UCF more than tripled from 67 to 231,” Hitt said. “The high school grade-point average of the freshman class increased from 3.66 to 3.87. Our first-year retention rate increased by eight percentage points from 79 to 87 percent.”
He continued his speech by highlighting various students who have excelled because of the opportunities provided to them by UCF faculty and staff. Hitt also gave examples of accomplishments the university has made this year including the recent discovery of the exoplanet, UCF-1.01, by UCF alumnus Kevin Stevenson.
Although the majority of the speech was upbeat, Hitt did bring up what he called the “elephant in the room” — funding cuts. UCF’s $52.6 million share of the $300 million reduction for the state university system this year has caused Hitt to consider major changes in the upcoming school year.
“If the $300 million is not restored, the impact on students will be substantial with fewer course offerings, larger classes and graduation delays,” Hitt said. “The obvious fact is we need more faculty members and more classrooms. This is our pathway to smaller class size.”
Hitt joked that he’s been tightening his belt for the last five years, “all the way down to a size 22 waist,” which, he said, is clearly not working.
“We are being frugal, however, if the state continues to reduce funding for UCF we will have to limit access for the first time next year. Our resources can stretch only so far,” he said.
UCF has excelled in graduation rates, research initiatives and student resources, but Hitt discussed one nationally recognized quality of education measure that UCF does not excel at: student to faculty ratio.
“At more than 31 students to each faculty member, our ratio is the highest in the state. We’re not happy or content with that number. However, our showing on this measure is largely a result of the budget cuts for higher education," Hitt said. “That loss has limited our ability to hire the number of faculty members that we had planned to or that we wanted. Despite the budget cuts, two-thirds of UCF classes have fewer than 40 students.”
The lack of funding has forced the university to be more creative with its offerings to students, Hitt said. The university offers online training courses, assists students with getting internships and provides cooperative education experiences. Differential tuition fees are used to staff the writing center and pay peer tutors to give students individual attention that will help them succeed in the classroom.
“This allows a greater efficiency of operations for UCF and provides our students with greater convenience for attending classes. It’s a win-win for all of us,” Hitt said.
His address was followed by a short speech by Ida Cook, chair of the Faculty Senate, and Cortez Whatley, president of the Student Government Association.
“This year has ushered in a whirlwind of changes for our student body,” Whatley said. “We have seen significant reductions of funding by the state. We have had to readjust how our university operates in order to compensate for our loss of funding.”
Whatley discussed his goals and vision for the university and said he is proud of how his goals have come to fruition thus far. A new recreation center is opening soon and the All Knight Study II space, a 24-hour study space with printing services, which will also house a new office for LGBTQ Services, is already in the works.