Thomas addresses wide range of topics in address to University

In the State of the University address, Truman State University President Sue Thomas provided an update on the interconnected issues the University faced for the past year.

Thomas spoke about Truman’s budget, academic initiatives, faculty and staff compensation, mental health, and enrollment and retention.

She said she tried to keep the topics broad and relevant to what most people are talking about on campus.

“That’s what landed me on the idea of kind of combining [Joshua Fish’s] video with what’s going on in society,” Thomas said. “Here’s the factual information, how people perceive it, interpret it — those kinds of things can differ, but here’s the factual information on areas that I think are really important to the University.”
Thomas said she had to keep the number of issues she talked about to a sizable number because of the time constraint of the speech.

In her section on the University budget, Thomas said Truman should be reallocating funds to priorities. Missouri Gov. Mike Parson has recommended a flat appropriation with an additional $271,191 for the MoExcels Workforce Initiative, and an extra $2 million for maintenance and repairs. Thomas also reviewed the $400 tuition and fee increases over the past four years. In addition, she said only a portion of the total budget from the Pursue the Future Campaign is undesignated.

Thomas also talked about Truman’s decreasing enrollment and retention rates. She said Truman no longer has the highest retention rate in Missouri because Truman’s has dropped 6 percent in four years. Thomas said everyone in the Truman community should help with recruitment and retention.

“If Truman’s going to end up in the very best place it can be, it’s up to all of us to contribute to that effort,” Thomas said. “People can contribute differently, but it’s the idea that we’re all Truman and we are all responsible for getting Truman to where we want to be.”

Thomas said the collective action behind the “one more” idea could have a large impact on University efforts.

Truman faculty and staff received a salary increase of 3 percent for fiscal year 2019 after not receiving one the previous year. Thomas said Truman’s non-tenure faculty compensation is lower than average. She also said the University’s decision to opt in to the minimum wage increase will have a domino effect on existing salaries, and they are planning those increases now.

“I think administration is well-engaged in [moving the University forward],” Thomas said. “Part of the discussion I think in the All-University [Meeting] is it’s not just the administration that needs to be engaged in this process. It needs to be all of us.”

On academics, Thomas said the University’s credit hour production is decreasing because enrollment is declining, four-year graduation rates are up and new students are bringing in more hours. There are a number of academic initiatives including The Dialogues, Truman’s new liberal arts curriculum, and the MoExcels programs.

Thomas also reported on students’ mental health based on the Healthy Minds Study conducted last year. The study indicates Truman students are abnormally prone to suicide ideation, but comparable to other universities in just about every other area surveyed. She said the University and JED committee is working to address the issue with a number of initiatives, but students should be leading the way to change the Typical Truman Student attitude.

Thomas said there is not a single deadline for when the University hopes to resolve the issues discussed in the address.

“Individual projects have deadlines that we should expect to see that work done, but I would say in terms of the campus moving forward, there’s no deadline,” Thomas said. “That will always be something that we are absolutely working on.”