Standard 3 -- Students
MSU Billings is a community within a community, the soul of which is the
A comprehensive university in an urban setting with an enrollment of 4,900 students (3,988+ FTE) in southcentral Montana, it is located in the state’s largest city. While Billings is the largest city in Montana with a population that recently reached the 120,000 mark, the state does not yet claim 1,000,000 citizens, so many of the University’s students come from small towns and rural areas throughout the region.
The state’s medical, retail and financial hub — the largest in a 500-mile radius — Billings offers many “city” amenities that students at MSU Billings may not enjoy in their hometowns. The town-and-gown relationship with the community continues to thrive as it has for the past eight decades. Community business leaders support scholarship initiatives for students, back internships and service learning projects at various levels and in turn enjoy a considerable amount of support from our students.
Students come to our campus primarily from Yellowstone County and the surrounding area; 89% are from Montana, and 64% are female. About 13% of our students live in one of two residence halls on the East Campus while the majority commute to campus; a small but growing number (±1%) are international students and about 10% are non-Caucasian, primarily American Indian (5% of total student population in spring 2008) along with a growing Hispanic population (3% of total student population).
Six miles west, the College of Technology/West Campus is experiencing exponential growth, especially in its health care and trade/industry programs. Since 2003, West Campus student FTE has increased 17%, while student headcount has increased by 45% during that same period. Strong partnerships with the community and demands for an increased workforce training have launched new and popular programs.
As an example, the Board of Regents authorized a new Associate of Science in Nursing LPN to RN Nursing Pathways program in fall 2007 and a new Power Plant Operations program in fall 2008, both in response to statewide and regional demand. The Student Affairs Division strives to deliver quality services to this burgeoning population at the same time that programs also meet the needs of East Campus students and approximately 2,200 individual students who annually enroll in distance education courses (equates to 8,870 course enrollments – up 18% since 2004). Student Affairs has delivered comprehensive services while state budget allocations have remained flat or declined (FY 2006-2007 and FY 2007-2008).
Summary and Analysis
Use of Assessment
MSU Billings understands that student success and student learning takes place inside and outside the classroom. The ability to assess and measure that success is imperative. The University has embraced the concept of Continuous Quality Improvement, but the evolving process is more mature in some areas than others. That shortfall is recognized.
The challenge now and in the future is to identify/refine the desired outcomes, develop a systemic process that is valid and reliable to collect the appropriate data and then aggregate/disaggregate that data. From that point, MSU Billings can use that data to make informed decisions.
With the development of a division-wide assessment plan, Student Affairs has focused on student-learning outcomes in all departments and in collaboration with other areas of the university. Over the past year, the SA Assessment Committee has trained SA directors and coordinators to establish annual goals associated with CAS Standards and Learning Reconsidered (NASPA) and to develop student learning outcomes. The VCSA website includes the Student Affairs Assessment Plan and Statement of Learning, furthering Student Affairs’ commitment to produce a strong student learning environment. Assessing what we do and making appropriate decisions based on annual goal achievement and data will only strengthen that commitment. Response to the Student Satisfaction Inventories of 2006 and 2008 and data gathered through division surveys have sparked the process to assess and modify delivery of services. The new Professional Development Committee has created Service Expectations to address issues identified by SSI results. Using flat or declining resources, the Division is working to create a campus environment that is service-oriented and student-centered, supportive of student learning outside the classroom.
Accomplishments (past 5 years)
Over the past five years, there has been a growing emphasis on providing better remedial, academic support, and advising services. The growth in the use and delivery of developmental education and tutoring services at the Academic Support Center is a testament to the dedication of the instructors and tutoring staff. However, the number of students needing developmental math has reached alarming proportions, both at the University and State level. Advising, having created more outreach efforts over the last two years, has seen a remarkable improvement in SSI 2008 results. The West Campus, with the addition of new programs, has seen an increased demand placed on two full-time advisors. The West Campus Directors of Student Services and Advising have worked together to review current work-load, student feedback, and organizational structure to ensure a quality advising experience.
The strong Student Activities Board (sponsored through student activities fees and funded by ASMSUB) has created more extracurricular and co-curricular programs for MSU Billings students with a growing focus on increasing the quantity and quality of student life experiences at both campuses. ASMSUB has created more West Campus student senator positions; ASMSUB, SAB and the Director of Student Life and Housing have created the Student Life Committee which develops Welcome Week activities, student leadership, clubs/organizations, and other activity initiatives. Student Leadership development occurs through various retreats and trainings held throughout the year. In addition, a one-credit student leadership course is offered each year. In Fall 2008, a two-day leadership retreat will be offered for all student leaders and student clubs and organizations. Many student organizations connect to academic majors and departments and faculty advisors from those areas work closely with the student union and activities office. Each student club and advisor is given a manual which outlines all policies and procedures, resources, leadership and training tips, and more.
A master calendar of all student events and programs is maintained and distributed through the Student Union and Activities office. Each Friday, the upcoming week of events are published and distributed throughout campus and on visible bulletin boards. This calendar includes athletic events, academic workshops, and all student led events and programs.
The Office of Community Involvement provides a service learning/civic engagement component for the university, creating new service learning projects with faculty and more volunteer opportunities for students. Now, more than ever before, MSU Billings connects with local non-profit agencies to provide more student learning opportunities.
Career Services has expanded its service to include an online/web-based employment module for students and employers. CareerLink allows students to post résumés and employers to post job openings, connecting both in a safe and professional online environment.
- MSU Billings Student Affairs professional staff members are well-trained, adequately educated, and committed to serving students at all levels of their educational pursuits, from orientation to commencement.
- MSU Billings Student Affairs Division’s development of Service Expectations indicates dedication to improving services by division staff and continuous quality improvement by the University.
- MSU Billings Student Affairs Division is focused on assessment in all departments, including measurable objectives and student learning outcomes.
- MSU Billings is developing a comprehensive Strategic Enrollment Management plan that is data-driven to address shifting demographics and meet University and Montana University System goals.
- Comparing data from SSI 2006 with SSI 2008, it is evident that the MSU Billings Academic Advising Center has improved services.
- MSU Billings’ enrollment grew in fall 2007 as compared to other Montana institutions.
- MSU Billings’ students and the Student Affairs Division enjoy broad support from the community through scholarship support and internship opportunities.
- MSU Billings’ Career Services coordinates growing numbers of internships, establishing strong partnerships with faculty and employers.
- Regular department Program Reviews support MSU Billings’ commitment to Continuous Quality Improvement.
- MSU Billings’ student retention increased (fall 2006 to fall 2007) and a new Student Success Coordinator position was created to help maintain that trend.
- MSU Billings Student Affairs Division is incredibly efficient. On the West Campus, the staff has handled the demands from increased student enrollment, new academic programs, more students with disabilities and more Academic Support Center users with minimal increase in personnel.
- MSU Billings’ Office of Community Involvement and Service Learning activities have connected the University with local non-profit entities in new and creative ways.
- Orientation changes at MSU Billings made in 2007 include a more comprehensive parent program at both campuses.
- MSU Billings’ Student Affairs Division is connecting with faculty in new ways and has invited faculty to serve on more Division- and Universitywide committees with Student Affairs professional staff; i.e., Partners for Change Task Force, the Enrollment Management Action Team, and Advisory Boards.
- Student Affairs needs to modify its flat organizational structure.
- MSU Billings needs to continue to improve advising services by offering students more academic advising information during orientation, registration days, A&SC101, and advising week activities. Focus on improving faculty advising with training, encouraging availability during winter and summer breaks, and working with students on academic probation.
- MSU Billings needs to continue to address the decline of FTE enrollment and budget deficits. While FTE growth remains flat, increasing student headcount means that more work is placed on fewer staff. This can be offset by establishing appropriate service expectations, assessing priorities and creating more “one-stop-shop” services.
- Strategies should be developed to fund more student services positions at the West Campus, where enrollment growth has created a need to manage the increase in student conduct, advising, health services, community involvement, career and multicultural student services, and student life activities.
- Low staff salaries as compared to other institutions in the state will need to be addressed.
- Student Affairs should continue to use survey data and other assessment efforts to make appropriate changes to services, especially as the University embraces students as lifelong learners.
- MSU Billings should continue to improve student involvement in policy decisions such as new services, tuition, BOR policies, academic programs, and rates/fees.
- Retention: 1) Review the need to implement a requirement for all new students to take First Year Experience course and 2) continue to strengthen developmental education and academic support offerings to adult learners.
- Student Affairs Division should develop programs for minority students to help them with transitional issues and retention and increase multicultural awareness activities.
- Confirm accuracy, content and structure of all web/print publications and catalogs.
- Working in collaboration with faculty and the Emergency Crisis Communications Committee, MSU Billings’ Student Affairs Division should increase safety awareness programs and conduct emergency plan training for all emergency scenarios, including active shooter. Create and implement student classroom behavior guidelines and faculty training on assessing and helping students with behavioral problems.
- Maintain new, transfer and readmitting student enrollments with the decline of high school graduates and the increasing state, regional, and online competition.
- Develop ways to increase and engage the adult learner population (25 and older).
- Review past and new transfer policies adopted by the Board of Regents and assess impact on registrar functions and course coding.
- Confirm security of student information and files – storage, access, paper and electronic information.
- While Board of Regents policies related to admission policies and transfer policies will continue to challenge Student Affairs, strategies need to be in place so that potential, new and current MSU Billings students are not adversely affected.
- Focus on student learning initiatives and co-curricular programs; more work must be done by various departments, including assessment of learning outcomes and building partnerships with faculty.
- As student loan conversations continue to unfold on the national and regional stages, MSU Billings needs to assess student satisfaction with local Financial Aid services and make appropriate adjustments. Application/ FAFSA and timelines related to awarding aid should be assessed and improved.
- Assess impact Student Success Coordinator has on retention at the East Campus.
- The Student Affairs Division needs to continue to assess how to work with faculty, staff, and students related to student mental health issues and classroom/campus behavior. This includes additional training for faculty and articulated guidelines.
Standard 3 Breakdown