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FALL 2013 President’s INSIDER FROM THE DESK OF GREGORY G. DELL’OMO, PH.D., PRESIDENT OF ROBERT MORRIS UNIVERSITY Fall is upon us. The campus is buzzing again with the energy of young people whose futures are just a tantalizing few years ahead of them, full of promise. It’s a wonderful time to work at a university. But this autumn has also been buzzing with worrisome news for American institutions of higher learning. After a stretch of several years of significant growth, college enrollments across the country are slipping. The reason is simple: High schools have turned out more and more graduates every year for decades, and colleges have been able to count on a growing supply of potential freshmen. But that trend peaked with the Class of 2010 and is now in decline, not only in Pennsylvania but nationwide. In a story this summer, the New York Times explained the problem through the lens of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where a sharp and unexpected drop in this year’s freshman class led to a $3.5 million budget shortfall and emergency budget and staff cuts. “There are many institutions that are on the margin, economically, and are very concerned about keeping their doors open if they can’t hit their enrollment numbers,” David Hawkins, the director of public policy and research at the National Association for College Admission Counseling, told the Times. Meanwhile, at Robert Morris we are looking at our biggest freshman class in history, with 980 first-year students from 26 states and 19 countries. Nearly 8,000 people applied to RMU in 2013, which is almost double the number from five years ago — and that’s with a steady improvement in our applicant pool’s average SAT score and high school grade point average. We are seeing record numbers of international students (more on that inside) and more online learners as well. If you ask students and staff alike, their biggest gripe lately is probably finding a parking space. We work constantly to reinforce RMU’s image as a “university of choice,” and I’d like to share a little statistic demonstrating that the message is being received. Every year I offer 15 full-tuition Presidential Scholarships to the applicants with the most impressive academic records. Understandably, these are students with a lot of opportunities, because other colleges are offering them equally attractive financial aid packages. So each year I expect some of our Presidential Scholar candidates to choose a different school. But this year, I was delighted when all 15 of them chose Robert Morris University. What makes RMU a university that students actively seek out and choose for their college experience? It’s not good enough just to say we have a beautiful campus; students and their parents evaluate a college’s “value proposition.” They take into account any number of things: program quality and reputation, student life, the way faculty and staff treat people, exciting athletics, a safe and secure campus environment, and strong outcomes, like the share of graduates who get jobs in their field. The bottom line, of course, is price. It’s the university president’s role to watch over all the components of the value proposition and make sure all of them are in balance. Our strong enrollment success, particularly in challenging circumstances, suggests that we’re doing something right. That’s something everyone in the RMU family should be proud of. Sincerely, Gregory G. Dell’Omo, Ph.D.

President's Insider Fall 2013

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