Chatted with FIU prez Mark Rosenberg last week, and although he declined to discuss the touchy Garrett Wittels situation, which Clark Spencer and I explore in today’s Herald, he did talk more broadly about the direction of the university, and its impact on athletics.
With all the attention you all received with the football season, have you seen a spike in applications?
“Not yet, is the best way to answer that. It probably would be premature to identify a spike, because there are all types so things pushing applications. I’d say in another two three months, we’d be in a better position to know, but not right now.”
You’re anticipating growing the size of enrollment in the next few years, right?
“We’ll go 10,000 in the next five, and in the 10, it will be another 10. Twenty thousand in total. We’ll go from 42,000 to 62,000.”
“I think the impact on athletics is three-fold. First, that growth will expand the fan base. Clearly, the students are critical for a fan base, particular with a high-quality stadium and a basketball arena, and softball field and a soccer field on our campus. We will have a lot more opportunities to have students attend a range of games.
“The second thing is, obviously, as the student population increases, the pool of available funds will increase. The most important thing about the growth in the student enrollment is that we’ll be able to hire, over the next 10 years, at least 800 new faculty. That’s over and above what we would have hired. And we’ll be able to able hundreds of new advisors and counselors. That’s critical if we’re to improve our graduation rate, and then we’ll be able to offer a lot more courses. To our students.
“And the third point, as we enroll more students, we will graduate more students, building a much stronger alumni base within this community. Within the next 10 years, we will graduate 100,000 students. That’s 100,000 alums, alums who have great jobs in the community, and who will be presumably supportive of their alma mater.”
The school had some cuts a few years back. Will this money go to restoring some of those jobs?
“You can’t put toothpaste back into the tube. We will have created new jobs, but they will not necessarily be the same jobs in the same positions, because the cuts decisions were based upon a very disciplined approach to assessing what was good and could get better, and where we could built excellence. There was a disciplined cut agenda. I don’t think we’ll replace with the same programs necessarily. We’re trying to be responsive in the marketplace. We’ll be hiring faculty in programs that are much more sensitive to demand and market demand jobs. We’ll be offering more courses. And with that, of course, there will be additional student fee money that will go to a range of different areas – our health clinics, our athletics, our student activities. That will obviously help us in providing a fuller range of opportunities for our students. I’m essentially giving you a long, complicated answer to what was a very focused question. Truthfully, I look at this holistically, and I know your focus is on athletics, but enrollment growth is about hiring new faculty, maintaining student-faculty ratios, offering more courses, and providing much better advise and guidance for our students.”
It seems to me, the missing piece to building a successful athletic program is to grow the fan base – to pack the football stadium, to travel to bowl games. That’s the sign of a healthy program, when you have people in the seats, correct?
“No question. No doubt that we must do a better job of consistently of getting our fans back to follow our teams. Whether or it’s football or basketball or baseball. Clearly, as the number of students grow, the number of alumni grow, and as the number of alumni will grow, the amount of support that they will bring back to FIU – emotional, financial – will grow. But ultimately, I want to reinforce that notion, in terms of our admissions, we know there are academically qualified students. There’s a demand for access for FIU. It’s not that we’re going to be open admissions. Not at all. This is for academically qualified students around which we will build our institution.”
Are there plans in the near future to start renovating the stadium again?
“Obviously, there’s a context for everything, and the economic downturn has forced us to re-evaluate our timetables. I can’t give you a specific timetable. I can tell you our planners are thinking about when we could initiate that process. We’re looking at other ways to improve stadium. We finally start to improve the press boxes. That’s very important. We’re doing gradual improvements to Landon Fieldhouse. It’s spectacular. We put a wrap around the stadium to advertise more the university. We’re making constant improvements, but we still don’t have a specific timetable for the north end. There are a lot of options we are looking at, but right now, we don’t have a specific timetable.”