By Zachary Wright
President Ali Malekzadeh discussed the current state of Roosevelt University in the State of University address.
On Wednesday, Feb. 21, President Malekzadeh took to the stage in Congress Lounge to inform the audience, mostly made up members of the board of trustees, faculty and other employees of the improvements Roosevelt has made since last year. The speech was split into two halves. The first half focused on the successes of Roosevelt, as well as one setback. The second half focused on the plans the university has set for the future.
“There are lots of good things happening at the university,” Malekzadeh said early into the address. Malekzadeh said the primary focus for the school is “building a stronger Roosevelt.”
The sale of Roosevelt’s share of the University Center has been finalized. Malekzadeh said the school received 20 million dollars which will be applied to the university debt.
The sale of the Gage Building is also under contract to be sold pending approval. “60 percent of the building we own will be under contract. That will take 30 to 45 days or so,” Malekzadeh said.
Malekzadeh also discussed the concerns of the Higher Learning Commission (HLC).
The first concern being a shared governance and the second being enrollment and finances. “They have removed their concern of shared governance… They still have continued concern about the budget and the debt of the university,” Malekzadeh said.
The HLC wanted another report next fall about the university’s efforts to reduce the current debt and improve enrollment.
The university has also received large money donations for CCPA. “In the CCPA, substantial gifts from Gloria Miner and the Davee Foundation for CCPA facility renovations, enhanced educational programs, scholarship funding and so forth,” Malekzadeh said.
A total sum of 7.8 million dollars was donated from Miner and the Davee Foundation. Malekzadeh thanked Henry Fogle, Rudy Marcozzi, Carolyn Bernstein and Don Jones for their contributions for the school to receive the donations.
The Heller College of Business also received a donation from the Marriott Foundation for a sum of $250,000 dollars for the hospitality and tourism program.
“Overall, eight million 50 thousand dollar total from the gifts received,” Malekzadeh said. He then shifted his speech to focus on education and curriculum.
“Provost Becker, and our deans, and our committees and faculty have looked at all our academic programs. We will be unveiling seven new academic offerings in the 18-19 academic year,” Malekzadeh said.
Some of these programs include library information and tech leadership, health science administration and a real estate program that will be offered to undergraduate students.
Malekzadeh also informed the audience that 28 percent of current students needed food or housing assistance. In a response to learning over 1/4th of students need assistance, Malekzadeh said the university had implemented a food and toiletry pantry on both campuses, as well as emergency temporary housing for homeless students.
One of the biggest concerns the speech addressed was student enrollment and retention. The university receives most of its funding from tuition. Malekzadeh said 98 percent of enrollment goals were met.
President Malekzadeh said that retention numbers have also improved. “When we look at that, retention went up 92 percent for both transfer and freshman students… For graduate students, a little bit of decline but not to worry.” Graduate student retention rate dropped down to 94 percent.
“It’s important to emphasize our freshman goals were very modest,” Malekzadeh said. 13 freshmen students enrolled for the spring semester, dropping from 19 compared to last year. “However, on transfer, our goal was 118. Last year, we were 142. As of last night, we are 187.” Graduate students also received a high enrollment with 174 compared to 159 last year. “Overall, significantly better than our goal and last year as we can see,” Malekzadeh said.
“This is the second straight term of new student enrollment growth,” Malekzadeh said. In Fall 2017, there was an increase of 5 percent. This spring, there was a 17 percent increase, a significant gain in comparison. Transfer student enrollment is also up 32 percent compared to last year.
“There’s a sense of excitement within each of the city colleges, as well as the community colleges, because now, they’re excited about coming to Roosevelt,” Malekzadeh said. “We’re seeing the front-end of that excitement.”
Malekzadeh said there are new improvements within the fiscal year. “Last year, we closed our books at 29 million, which is the highest ever. So far this year, this academic year, we have raised 11.5 million for 2018.” 4.9 million dollars were endowed scholarships and 1.7 million were annual scholarships.
Endowment has also seen the most significant changes. “As of January, endowment has grown to 121 million,” Malekzadeh said. This is up from 39 million at this time last year. Malekzadeh said the university will continue working to bring in more money for the endowment. “We want to leave behind a significantly larger endowment for the university,” Malekzadeh said.
To end his address, Malekzadeh assured the audience that the university will survive the challenging times together. “We will get through these challenging times. I think the ship on enrollment is turning in the right direction. Students are coming in, transfer students are coming in. We are seeing more and more coming for orientation, various information sessions and so far, but we have to show results for a year or two for everyone to believe us,” Malekzadeh said.
Biology professor Vicky McKinley thought the speech was encouraging as enrollment been going up. “That bodes well for the future for the university, as well as being able to sell off some our real estate to pay off some our debt – which is a good thing,” McKinley said.
Professor of Elementary Education and Reading Margaret Policastro said the speech delivered by Malekzadeh was optimistic and hopeful.
“When he talks about a strong Roosevelt, I thought each point he talked about really did exemplify about how we are stronger and getting stronger every day,” Policastro said.
Malekzadeh said while he is optimistic, his concerns are still the high debt and enrollment. “I have never been more optimistic about the future of Roosevelt University,” Malekzadeh said, after concluding the address. “We haven’t turned it around 100 percent. We’re making good strides in that direction. All the red flags have turned into yellow and green flags.”
Malekzadeh said students should not be concerned about the current problems the university is trying to solve.
“This university will be around based on the numbers we have today for at least another hundred years,” Malekzadeh said. “That’s my job to make sure it’s around for another two hundred years.”