The UNT System Board of Regents met Aug. 15-16 and approved UNT’s FY20 operating budget. I am pleased to share how this approved budget will enable us to accomplish our top priorities in Academic Affairs. All Academic Affairs resources will be strategically invested to support student empowerment and transformation, people and processes, and scholarly activity and innovation.
In the face of a challenging fiscal environment, I am excited to announce that we will be able to add 28.5 new faculty lines, invest in growth at UNT at Frisco and fund other essential activities. With student demographic shifts underway on a national level and competing fiscal demands placing pressure on higher education appropriations, we are fortunate enough to dedicate new money toward our strategic priorities. Much of that is a result of your hard work, and we must not lose sight of the fact that together, we share the responsibility to provide our students a transformative experience.
In total, we will be able to make meaningful investments that will advance the institution in three priority areas:
Goal: We will empower and transform our students in their educational and social environments to set them up for lifelong learning success.
Student retention has been a major focus over the last year and it will continue to be a high priority effort. We will be hiring five new undergraduate advisors, six new graduate advisors while implementing a new professional master’s advising model, and partnering with Education Advisory Board’s Student Success Collaborative to empower our advisors with predictive student analytics. These investments will help us build upon the outstanding progress we have made in student retention over the past year. Although we don’t yet have an official enrollment count, I can say we have made meaningful progress on student retention, allowing more of our students to continue on their path to achieve their educational dreams.
Growing master’s program enrollment and investing more resources in doctoral students are key priorities as well. We are committed to recruiting high quality graduate students by improving the competitiveness of packages. In addition, we also are committed to improving affordability to help remove cost as a barrier toward a student’s persistence at UNT. Toward that end, the Academic Affairs budget will allocate about $2 million in new funds toward the graduate Tuition Benefit Plan and need-based financial aid for undergraduate and graduate students.
Goal: We will attract, develop and celebrate our campus community to make UNT an outstanding environment in which to work and learn.
The terrific progress we have made toward student retention, building on our R1 research status, growing enrollment, and increasing top-ranked programs could not have been possible without our dedicated faculty and staff. This budget provides additional capacity by adding 28.5 new faculty lines to help meet a growing student demand. On the Denton campus 70% of the new lines will be tenure-track hires thereby building more research capacity. This year, we are seeing a dramatic expansion of our enrollment at the UNT at Frisco campus and we are investing in new lines to support expanding teaching capacity at our new location.
In addition, we aspire to ensure our faculty and staff are paid equitably. Approximately $610,000 will be dedicated toward faculty promotion and tenure increases, recognizing distinguished faculty and converting faculty lines to endowed professorships.
Goal: We will support, communicate and celebrate a dedicated culture of scholarly activity at UNT to expand UNT’s innovative impact for our students and our community.
UNT has made enormous progress in building the research environment. We should take a moment to celebrate that we are only one of nine universities to make the leap from Carnegie’s R3 classification of research universities to R1 in just 25 years. It is quite an enormous task to be recognized as only 1 of 131 in the top tier of research institutions. Now is the time to build upon this great success to cement ourselves for the next 25 years and beyond as one of a major research university.
We must not only keep pace with our peers but continue our upward trajectory. Our investment in tenure-track faculty hires support our research mission. Approximately $3.9 million in HEF funds will be dedicated toward start-up packages for these new hires as well as replacement positions. And an additional $1.6 million has been allocated for improvements to faculty and staff computing, classroom upgrades, research equipment and other initiatives in support of scholarly activity.
I hope that you are as proud as I am of where we are as university, and I also encourage you to think about where we could be. The FY20 budget represents a significant investment in these goals to foster student success and scholarly innovation.