A ROUNDTABLE ON THE PROVOST TASK FORCE ON ENROLLMENT 2005
WHAT IS THE PROVOST TASK FORCE ON ENROLLMENT 2005?
MORTON SCHAPIRO The task force is made up of a broad range of people at the university who are working together to try to define what we want USC to look like in the next five years. It was formed at the request of the Provost because it was an opportune time to look ahead to the future. Most universities do this kind of self-evaluation when enrollment is down, but we’re doing it when we’re stronger than we have ever been, and that is very good news.
WHAT WAS THE IMPETUS FOR FORMING THE TASK FORCE?
JOE ALLEN A dramatic increase in applications from highly qualified students. This moved us into the category of highly selective institutions. Greater selectivity allows us to attract the best students and gain the respect of opinion leaders in higher education. We are now in a position to shape our incoming class. We’re giving much deeper thought to the ultimate size, shape and character of the student body.
WHAT ISSUES HAS THE TASK FORCE TAKEN UP?
JOE ALLEN Now that we have become a more selective institution, it allows us to ask ourselves many questions about the direction the university is going. There are serious trade-offs that we have to consider and we must find a way to balance many issues. We’re looking at things like SAT scores. How high do we want them to go and is it a goal of ours to keep driving them up? We’re looking at how more selective admission standards affect alumni and how we can ensure that we don’t leave our Trojan families behind. How do we maintain racial and cultural diversity of the campus and how do we rate talents such as music and performing arts? What should our goal in housing be? All these and other questions are under discussion and it’s my hope that the task force will get a clear direction for the university.
HOW DOES USC COMPARE TO OTHER UNIVERSITIES?
MORTON SCHAPIRO During the first few meetings, we compared ourselves to a lot of other institutions such as Columbia and Northwestern to see where we stood. We looked at our own data and found that in terms of increasing SAT scores and enrolling students who were in the top 10 percent of their class, we had closed the gap in an unbelievable way in the last decade. That was very gratifying. On the other hand, we learned that we continue to lag behind when it comes to graduation rates, and our endowment per student is much smaller. Those are things we need to improve in the future.
WHAT DO YOU HOPE THE TASK FORCE WILL ACCOMPLISH?
MORTON SCHAPIRO The task force is preparing a final report that addresses many of the issues we face at USC, and I think it will give us something to aim for in the future. We want USC to be the best it can be, and this will give us a consistent plan. It will also give us an opportunity to reflect on how we see the university. The report will set out some very optimistic goals and give us a blueprint that should serve us well in the coming years.
WHAT KIND OF STUDENTS WILL USC LOOK FOR IN THE FUTURE?
MIKE DIAMOND Our goal is to have a diverse student body. When I say diverse, I mean diverse in the broadest sense. I’m talking about having the right mix of alumni, children of employees, students from foreign countries and different cultures. We want students with high SAT scores who have excelled academically in the classroom. We also want them to have made achievements in activities outside the classroom – whether it’s volunteering in the community, athletics or leadership in high school. Our administration has always looked beyond just the academic scores of each student, and we will continue to do that so that we can attract a diverse group of students.
WILL THE NUMBER OF STUDENTS ADMITTED TO THE UNIVERSITY BE INCREASED?
MIKE DIAMOND No. We believe the smaller the class, the higher the quality of education. We’ve made great gains in retention over the last few years. About 95 percent of the freshman class came back in 1997-98. Retention will remain a high priority.
WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE OF UNDERGRADUATE ACADEMIC PROGRAMS?
JOSEPH HELLIGE The big flurry in change has taken place in the last five years. We have redesigned the general education requirements, redesigned the writing requirement and the core set of classes that shape the academic experience that all USC students have in common. We have also created the broadest array of academic minors at any university in the country. In the future, we will be encouraging students to take minors that are very different from their majors, to make their academic experience well-rounded. We will also be looking to see what programs have worked and refining the choices available to students.
WHAT ABOUT GRADUATE PROGRAMS?
JOSEPH HELLIGE Clearly there will be an ever-increasing emphasis on building excellence and elevating the programs. We want to evaluate each graduate and professional program, to chart a course for them to improve and increase quality, with the emphasis on taking them to new levels of prominence.
WILL THERE BE ENOUGH HOUSING FOR STUDENTS IN THE FUTURE?
JOE ALLEN We are continuing to improve the variety of housing and adding more structures to the university. We also want to be sure that we have sufficient housing scaled to the size of the student body and that we have a variety of options for students. We’re seeing that more students want to live on campus and their expectations for housing have changed. We’re breaking ground on an exciting new housing facility with an international theme. We see it as a gathering place for students who feel their learning can be enhanced by studying with people from different countries.
WILL THERE BE ANY ADVANTAGES TO BEING AN ALUMNUS OR ALUMNA?
MIKE DIAMOND USC is not just a four-year experience. We are committed to providing SCions with education on a lifelong basis. Whether it’s providing a center of education for alumni, short classes in the summer, distance learning classes or even education in elder hostels, we want to have the ability to respond to the ongoing educational needs of our alumni.
WHAT WILL YOU DO TO ENSURE THAT SCIONS DON’T GET LEFT BEHIND AS THE UNIVERSITY MOVES FORWARD?
JOE ALLEN I’m particularly pleased that [Walt Disney Motion Pictures chairman] Richard Cook, the incoming alumni president, has taken an active role in the task force. He has a remarkable ability to represent the broad range of alumni in a clear and effective way. No one wants to see us move into a range that’s so selective that we leave alumni behind. We want to be sure they know that we are moving in a positive direction and that they have a clear understanding of the expectations we have for admission. We’ve spent time talking about how we can better communicate with our Trojan families, and we are working to keep them informed. These pull-out sections are one part of our strategy, but we’re also meeting with alumni families throughout the year at special events so that they can prepare their children for the future.
WILL THERE CONTINUE TO BE A STRONG EMPHASIS ON STUDENT ACTIVITIES?
MICHAEL JACKSON Co-curricular activities are important because they give students a chance to apply what they’re learning in a practical sense and gain professional and leadership skills. Each year, we register about 300 student groups, and it’s our goal to continue to have a wide variety of these groups in the future. Letting students run these organizations gives them a chance to take control of their education. It’s important for USC to have a rich variety of clubs and organizations because they complement the education students receive here.
WHAT WILL YOU DO TO ENSURE THAT STUDENTS ARE READY FOR THE REAL WORLD WHEN THEY LEAVE USC?
MICHAEL JACKSON Corporate leaders tell us that in addition to wanting really smart students they want students with job experience who know how to work with other people, how to collaborate on projects and how to take a project from A to Z. We help our students find internships and work-study jobs, on and off campus. We’ve started an alumni mentor program, with mentors from all over the country, so that students can speak with someone in their field of study. In addition, we’ve just spent $2 million to refurbish the Career Center and added nine new staff.