Friday, July 31, 2009

Summer renovations wrapping up

Summer is quickly coming to a close and so are a few key building projects here at Bloomsburg University that will make this fall semester even more exciting. I’ve already highlighted the Jessica S. Kozloff Apartments project on the upper campus, so I will focus on the lower campus here.

In less than a month, the first phase of renovation to Bakeless Center should be finished and just in time for the new semester. The second phase work on the east side classrooms is on schedule to be completed by the spring semester. This is great news for our students, staff and faculty who call Bakeless home during the school year. The $4.1 million renovation will give the 40-year-old building new life with the most up-to-date electrical and ventilation systems and will significantly enhance the existing classroom and office space.

As a result, the great academic programs in economics, English, philosophy and political science located in Bakeless will get even better with improved infrastructure for more technology and teaching space. I’m proud to say those programs have continued to thrive amid the disruption of the renovation, which will continue in part through the winter. The College of Liberal Arts is a very active and comprehensive area of study at BU, preparing graduates for a variety of professions – law, medicine, media, business, health, government service, art and education.

More improvements are on the way for the Liberal Arts departments outside of Bakeless with planned renovations of McCormick Center and Old Science Hall. Plus, we will keep a close eye on what other facilities need updated and possibly expanded as we develop a new strategic plan and a new facilities master plan this school year.

BU prides itself in minimizing deferred maintenance and aggressively funding renovations to keep our academic, housing and dining facilities operating efficiently as possible. This is done to give our students, faculty and staff access to the most current and convenient space, technology and services. Our campus has kept busy this summer with plenty of activity and planning. Things certainly won’t be slowing down for the fall.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The value of a BU education

As we adjust to the recent tuition increase and ongoing economic challenges, which include a continued stalemate of the state budget process, I wanted to take time to highlight some of the unique programs BU offers that have proven successful in attracting students and helping them land good jobs in the ever-growing, competitive world. These are just a few programs in BU’s comprehensive catalog that emphasize the high quality education our students get here at an affordable price.

BU's first and, so far, only doctoral program is offered in audiology, which is a clinical program designed to produce audiologists who perform a wide array of diagnostic, remedial and other audiology services. The program places major emphasis on clinical training and practical application of research, theory and technology into clinical practice.

Another unique offering is our computer forensics program, which is the only computer forensics bachelor's degree program in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The increased use of computers to commit crimes and growing demand for computer-based data in civil proceedings created a need for individuals with expertise to extract useful information from computer evidence. Our program prepares students for careers as computer forensics specialists who can work with law enforcement, homeland security agencies, law firms, and private companies.

Our College of Business offers a fraud examination career concentration. This unique interdisciplinary program provides in-depth coverage of fraud examination and forensic accounting.

BU, like its 13 sister PASSHE institutions, began as a teacher's college. One of our unique degree programs within in the College of Education is our bachelor's and master's program in American Sign Language and English interpreting program. This program prepares students for interpreting in a variety of jobs settings, such as the legal, educational and medical fields. The program includes hands-on training obtained through in-class practice and personal interaction with the local deaf population.

BU has also has built a solid foundation on it successful programs, such as our bachelor’s program in anthropology. At BU, anthropology is divided into three areas — cultural anthropology, which studies ways of life in societies across the world; physical anthropology, which traces human origins and biological variability; and archaeology, which seeks to explain human behavior by studying material remains from past cultures. These disciplines are blended together so students see the whole picture of humankind, how humans have evolved, what problems they face, what solutions are possible and what the future might hold.

We take pride in knowing our university offers a complete list of high quality academic programs that place our graduates in the best position to land great jobs or continue their higher education. And this is done without placing excessive burden on their families' finances.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Keeping education affordable

Bloomsburg University has always prided itself on providing a top-quality education at a very affordable price and will continue to do so in light of the recent tuition increase established by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors. As a result of their decision, our students will see a 3.7 percent increase in tuition for the 2009-10 academic year. It equates to $196 more a year for a full-time, in-state student.

I wrote last time about how the struggling economy continues to impact business, politics, families and higher education. In order for BU to maintain the level of education and learning opportunities our students and alumni have grown accustomed to and appreciative of, budget adjustments were needed.

BU and its 13 sister state universities are not alone in facing the tough challenges of providing higher education in this economy. Penn State University recently increased its tuition by 4.5 percent, which equates to roughly $585, and other universities in the state and our region are doing the same. However, we have kept cost increases to a minimum, including the recent tuition increase.

It’s also important to keep in mind this key budgetary decision was made without knowing how much funding the state university system will receive once state legislators pass a 2009-10 budget. There is still a level of uncertainty about what kind of cuts we may be faced with. This may impact the total number of courses we are able to offer. Unfortunately the state’s support has consistently fallen for many years, which has left the financial burden more on the shoulders of BU, its students and their families.

Despite the economic hardships, BU and its committed faculty have been resilient and moved forward in providing an excellent higher education. The quality of BU’s academic programs, faculty and staff is evident with the highest enrollment numbers we have ever seen, including an expected record number of freshmen coming this fall in the wake of the current recession. More students are seeing the value of a BU education, especially the quality accessed here at an affordable price. At BU, we are proud to provide our students with an excellent education that prepares them for life in our multicultural society and global economy at a cost that does not leave them with excessive debt.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Economic impact still being felt

It is hard not to notice the daily updates on the state of the economy in the newspaper, on radio and in television broadcasts. It has been no secret these tough economic times have had a negative impact on all of us, including Bloomsburg University and our students.

As we move closer to the start of another school year, the economy plays a key role in how we plan for our future. A component of that is tuition, which is set each year by the PASSHE Board of Governors. Our state system of 14 universities has survived the fluctuating economy through excellent leadership, planning, and efficient use of resources and skills.

In the meantime, Bloomsburg University has provided high-quality education to our students while holding down operating costs and fees, along with affordable tuition set by the Board of Governors. In fact, over the past five years Bloomsburg and its sister institutions have seen tuition increased by only $760, from 4,598 in 2003 to 5,358 in 2008, while some universities in our region have raised tuition by as much as $7,000 and $10,000 over the same time span.

The Board of Governors is scheduled to meet this week, and the 2009-10 tuition will be a topic on their agenda. Although we have been successful in meeting the recent economic challenges, there comes a time when tuition increases are needed in order for a university to continue to provide the best education to its students. As we monitor the economic situation and await the result of the Board of Governors’ meeting, Bloomsburg University will continue to build on its success in having top-quality faculty guide our students into the future at an affordable price.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Upper Campus starting to take shape

After five years of constant construction, activity on the upper campus will begin to wrap up next month when the Jessica S. Kozloff Apartments are finished. That will leave the Nelson Field House as the lone site still undergoing renovation.

Not only is this welcome news for the staff and students who work and reside on the upper campus, it is wonderful news for the BU community as we will get to see the upper campus really take shape after five years of hard work and great investment.

The biggest change this fall will be the Kozloff Apartments, which will house 544 students in three, four-story buildings. There will also be a commons building with a fitness center, meeting space and mail room. The $31 million project will be completed just in time for the fall semester, which begins on Aug. 31.

In the meantime, the field house’s $12 million facelift will continue in phases into next summer. The field house will be completely renovated with added space for locker rooms, storage and new labs for our exercise science program. The project also includes a completely renovated swimming pool, refurbished building entrance and new seating in the gymnasium. We can look forward to seeing the renovated pool in September and the gym’s new look and feel in October.