Dalton LaFerney / Senior Staff Writer
President Neal Smatresk delivered UNT’s inaugural State of the University address this afternoon in the Winspear Performance Hall. Smatresk reviewed fiscal year 2014, announced the fiscal 2015 preliminary budget and outlined the university’s collaborative, transparent and adaptive, data-driven plans moving forward.
He began by reviewing the financial challenges that have strained UNT over the last three years, and said that UNT’s reserves are depleted.
“We were challenged,” he said. “We were challenged as a team, we were challenged as a system and we were challenged as an institution.”
The numbers for fiscal 2013 will be reconciled later this week, the president announced. And in November, fiscal 2014’s numbers should follow suit.
Fiscal Year 2014 by the numbers
UNT’s first-year retention rate increased by 2.5 percent, but the incoming student headcount decreased by 1.5 percent. Graduate student enrollment decreased by 3.5 percent, but Smatresk said that’s from the increase in Ph.D. enrollment. Another reason for the decrease is the state of Texas isn’t reimbursing master’s degree students like it used to.
“So we now have to create a new business model in the College of Education,” he said.
The total research expenditures decreased in fiscal 2014 by 12.7 percent, down to $29.4 million from fiscal 2013, which was $33.7 million.
Fiscal 2014 boasted the largest number of total graduates in UNT’s history. While the number of Ph.D. graduates increased by 27 percent, master’s degrees awarded slumped down by 5.5 percent.
UNT’s Supply Chain and Logistics program ranked 6th in the nation, improved from 23rd last year. Accounting undergraduate and master’s programs are now in the top 50 in the country. The U.S. News and World Report has 14 UNT programs in the top 100 nationwide.
“That’s a really strong number,” Smatresk said. “By all measures, we have a high level of program recognition.”
The $200 million goal for UNT’s Capital Campaign, a campaign to support scholarships, development and student life programs, was exceeded with a sum of $210 million.
Smatresk said that UNT is now ranked in the top 200 in nation among major research universities.
“That’s a good place to be, but it isn’t good enough,” he said.
Smatresk announced that 50 percent, 4,700, of incoming students opted for the new Eagle Express program.
Audience members listen to President Neal Smatresk address finances, physical growth, research and much more during State of the Univeristy address. “Our first commitment is that we will stay in the black,” Smatresk said.
2015 budget and operation priorities
The president outlined the fiscal 2015 budget with the priorities to build reserves, improve operations and invest in student recruitment and retention, among others.
UNT will bring in about $572 million according to the preliminary budget. Operating expenses and other expenses included, the university will spend about $562.8 million, leaving a fund balance of about $9.1 million.
As UNT gets set to celebrate its 125th anniversary, Smatresk plans to visit each department to better understand the school’s needs. Fiscal 2015 will bring more construction as the president said there will be key renovations to the Science Research Building, coliseum, residents halls. He also said to expect parking solutions.
A top priority for the university is to become a minority and Hispanic serving institution.
“Take a look at the demographics of Texas. They’re changing,” Smatresk said. “If we are going to make a difference, we are going to embrace the education the of first-generation students. If we turn our backs on this primary mission, we fail as a state.”
“We’re going to move from the back of the pack to the front of the pack,” President Neal Smatresk said. President Neal Smatresk talks to his wife immediately after his speech and presentation.
Smatresk outlined a list of academic priorities as well, which are listed in full on this president’s website, and made clear that a more transparent and process in becoming a top university will be UNT’s focus moving forward.
“We will find a path to national prominence,” he said. “We will find a path to Tier One. And we are going to do it by working together.”
Texas State Representative Myra Crownover attended the address and said the experience was positive for those outside the UNT community as well.
“It was an excellent conversation for the faculty and staff,” Crownover said. “It helps us all realize what we need to do for the state. UNT has done a great job at educating and training the workforce of tomorrow.”
Featured Photo – President Neal Smatresk delivers the inaugural State of the University inside the Murchison Performing Arts Center on Wednesday afternoon. Smatresk talked about the university’s past achievements, current happenings and future goals. Photo by Edward Balusek – Visuals Editor