Enrollment, academic integrity software discussed during Regents meeting

By Autumn Bippert

Fall enrollment, housing occupancy, Title IX changes and academic integrity software were among the topics discussed during the September meeting of the South Plains College Board of Regents. 

Dr. Stan DeMerritt, vice president for student affairs, presented the preliminary Fall 2019 enrollment as of Sept. 11. 

“Our total unduplicated headcount for the fall term is 9,300, 104 less than last year,” Dr. DeMerritt said. “We’re down 1.1 percent over last year. Not surprising, really looking at the economy continuing to maintain where it’s at, doing better and better.”

Dr. DeMerritt explained that there has been a significant uptick in online classes, with an increase of 203 students, or 7.1 percent, totaling 3,048. 

“We did see a decrease in our dual credit,” Dr. DeMerritt said. “Our dual credit decrease is due to the loss of Frenship High School to Angelo State University. Last term, they could not offer what they needed. While this term, Angelo State actually offered what they needed, and so they pulled from us.”

Dual credit enrollment saw a drop of 3.9 percent, 80 students, totaling 1,986 enrolled.

Levelland campus enrollment is 4,067, which is a decrease of 120 students, 2.9 percent, from last fall. Reese Center campus decreased by 132 students, 6 percent, totaling 2,078. The Lubbock Center campus enrollment increased by 24 students, 2.4 percent, totaling 1,079. Plainview campus decreased by 16 students, 4.9 percent, totaling 312. Online classes increased by 203 students, 7.1 percent, totaling 3,048. 

Dr. DeMerritt also presented the housing occupancy for the fall semester.

“We’re sitting at 90.6 percent occupancy,” Dr. DeMerritt said. “Of the 766 beds, we have 694 filled. Of those, eight are private rooms. So we’re sitting really strong.”

Dr. DeMerritt said that in the dorm occupancy, 54.18 percent are male students and 45.22 percent are female students, which is a change in trend to have more male than female students living on campus. Total occupancy is at 90.6 percent which is an increase from 87.9 percent from the previous year.

“Surprisingly, Gerstenberger still has nine beds open,” Dr. DeMerritt added. “The issue there is some of those folks really liked the cost that they’re paying right now for the triplets at $1,000 and don’t want to pay up the other $1,500. It’s the same way if you look at the women’s halls. Tubb has 11 empty beds.

Dr. DeMerritt also discussed several changes coming to Title IX due to HB 1735, SB 212 and HB 449 that were passed in the last Texas legislative session. He said that these changes will be made within the next month or two. One of these coming changes  is transcript notation. 

“The State of Texas has approved all disciplinary actions, a suspension or expulsion from an institution to be transcribed on the academic transcript beginning immediately,” Dr. DeMerritt explained. “They have taken collegiate registrars and admissions officers’ recommendations on transcript notation regarding disciplinary actions and have actually instilled that into law.”

Dr. DeMerritt explained that this is beneficial because institutions can see what has happened with these students who have a record of either sexual assault or heinous crimes of some type, and they can’t continue to roll between institutions. Institutions have to honor any disciplinary suspension just as they honor any academic suspension from another institution.

Dr. Ryan Gibbs, vice president for academic affairs, discussed adding a fee of $10 to a students’ bill for academic integrity software. 

“In August, we discussed the need to invest in an academic integrity software application that would allow us to ensure the integrity of our online learning environment,” Dr. Gibbs said. “We are currently going through the state-mandated formal bid process to determine the vendor or the service. We would like to pilot this application in spring of 2020, with institution-wide implementation in the fall of 2020.”

Dr. Gibbs explained that pricing for this type of service is typically based per student per academic year and is estimated to run approximately $200,000 annually. SPC has determined that $10 per student per semester would be enough to cover the cost of the service.  

“It will be available to all of our students and to every class, even in-person classes,” Dr. Gibbs said. “I think it’s going to enhance our ability to make sure that our students are doing their own work. So our in-person classes, we’ll actually have a more secure testing environment if they move their test to an online environment with the use of the services. So in the old days when we would go in and take a class and we would take a scantron with multiple choice tests, students were cheating those in classes.”

Dr. Gibbs said that because of the algorithms that are run by the system, students are not going to be able to get away with cheating.

  Dr. Robin Satterwhite, president of South Plains College, brought for consideration change in dual credit pricing. 

“We charged $210 for the first dual credit class,” Dr. Satterwhite explained. “Every class thereafter, we charged $174. That’s how we structure our fee. We find ourselves increasingly competing with universities.”

Dr. Satterwhite explained that the University of Texas, Angelo State and several other colleges have been approaching high schools in the area with lower costs for dual credit classes.

He said that a decrease to $180 per three-hour course would help retain schools in the area. He also added that the fee would need to be revisited in the future to continue to compete with universities.

Dr. Satterwhite also provided an update on the construction for the Science Building. He said that the original cost estimated was $13.5 million, and SPC has raised $12.1 million through private donations. He also said that the cost is only an estimate until they begin to make bids and see where they’ll have more room to spend at.

Groundbreaking for the Science Building is estimated to be held near the beginning of December of this year.