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Behind the Headlines – September 6, 2019

Behind the Headlines – September 6, 2019

– (female announcer)
Production funding for Behind the Headlines
is made possible in part by: the WKNO Production Fund, the WKNO Endowment Fund, and by viewers like you.
Thank you. – President of the University
of Memphis, David Rudd, tonight on Behind the Headlines. [dramatic orchestral music] I’m Eric Barnes with
The Daily Memphian. Thanks for joining us. I am joined tonight by David
Rudd, President of the U of M. Thanks for being here. – Happy to be here. Thanks for the invitation.
– Along with Bill Dries, reporter with
The Daily Memphian. We’ll talk about
all kinds of things and as I joked with
you before the show as I was putting my notes
together for the show, searching The Daily
Memphian site and elsewhere. And you have a lot going on– – We got a lot going on.
– from construction, to athletics, to academics,
to changing demographics. But just a big picture
question for you right now. What is your biggest challenge? Look, you’ve been on
the job five years, you look at the next five years. The biggest challenge for you and for the university is what? – I think the largest
challenge for the university really has revolved
around the financial model for the university. When I started, there was a
very large operational deficit. And the reason I say that, is because the financial model
impacts everything we can do. It impacts our capacity to
recruit and support students, our ability to support
students adequately through graduation to improve
our graduation numbers, our retention numbers, and we’ve made significant
progress in all of those areas. All of that is driven
by the financial model for the university and that
includes some of the things you mentioned like
growth at the university. Particularly physical, if you look at the physical
plant of the university, we’ve had some nice growth. But at the core of all of that
is a solid financial model. – And that solid
financial model, I think we had you on the
show two or three years ago, we talked about it. And I think talked about
it in the context– Our kids are similar age, I have two kids in
college right now. You just look at the
exploding cost of higher ed. It is just amazing. I mean, the percentage
growth across the board, the debt levels that people
are increasingly worried about. That students and
families are taking on to get their kids
through school. When you look at the big picture of exploding cost of tuition, does that scare you or does that an opportunity
for you to set yourself apart? – Well it’s an opportunity
to set ourselves apart, which we’ve done. We’ve done it in
a significant way and to be more
specific around that, we’ve had the lowest
cost increases in the state of Tennessee
over the last 5 years by significant margin. And that includes two years
of zero tuition increase for the first time in 40 years
at the University of Memphis. Our average tuition fee
increase at the university over the last five
years is 1.7%. There’s not another public
university in the state that’s close to us on that. – They might be what,
four or five percent? – Usually over two and
a half to three percent. So you’re looking at two
and a half to three percent that Tennessee Higher
Education Commission caps the maximum tuition
increase annually. We have always been
well below that and the reason that that’s
been so important for us, is affordability has
always been the challenge. Financial challenges are the
single most significant barrier for our students. Containing costs,
lowering costs, which we’ve done, we’ve
reduced out-of-state tuition 28% two years ago, has
had significant impact. We reduced tuition
costs in a law school, out-of-state tuition costs
have had significant impact. But at the heart of that is
improvement in our outcomes. We’ve improved graduation rates
10% in the last four years. Our retention rate this year, or first to second year
retention, was at 81%. The national average
for public universities first to second year
retention is 71%. So we have had very
good performance. All of that is tied toward
affordability for our students and making it easier for them to get through the
process financially and overcome that barrier. And at the same time,
as you might imagine, it’s a huge portion of
our financial model. 63% of our revenue
is tuition revenue. – Briefly, before I go to Bill, tuition for incoming
freshman this year will be roughly what? – Around $9,700, $9,800,
in that ballpark. – A little bit under that
– For a full year or for a semester? – For a year, for the academic
year, that is correct. – Bill. – And the academic
year is underway. You have a lot of
freshman on campus. – We had a new record. As of yesterday, that
number was 2,714 for us. Not just a new
record for freshman, but also the highest
academic credentials for the freshman class. The single greatest
predictor of success in college is not
your ACT or SAT score. It’s actually your GPA. Over 35% of incoming freshman
had a GPA of 3.75 or above. So we are attracting
high performing students. We’re excited about that. And we had a
significant increase in terms of
out-of-state freshman, which for us is important. – Has higher education also
shifted it’s emphasis away from ACT and the
SAT, to look at that and to look at retention? – We have, absolutely. And again, the ACT and the
SAT are not better predictors than GPA and so how
somebody does in high school is related in a
significant fashion, how they do at the
university level. We’ve better resource support
for students, academically. In terms of counseling
and advising. I think we’ve done a
better, more effective job and as a result, we’ve seen dramatic
improvement in retention and as I mentioned, significant improvement
in graduation. – Going into the academic year, you posted on twitter, two, I guess you would
call them heat maps, that looked at where
your students come from five years ago and where
they come from currently. And a pretty
dramatic difference. You have a lot of
out-of-state students, a lot more out-of-state students than you’ve had in the past. – We do, absolutely. And that’s directly linked to a move we’ve made
a couple of years ago to reduce out-of-state
tuition by 28%. To make it more affordable. Our price point wasn’t
where it needed to be. We had a dramatically
smaller number. We had a 25% increase in
freshman out-of-state this year, which is critical for us, given where we’re
located geographically, the growth of the
University of Memphis is not just gonna be in
Tennessee, but in this region. We wanted a more significant
national footprint. We are getting a more
significant national footprint. We’ve done that strategically,
we’re excited about that. And it was a response to
shrinking and contracting demographics in the Southeast. There is an estimated about
two and a half percent decline in the number of high
school students graduating. Not just in Tennessee, but
in the Southeast in general. So, we need to have a more
significant national footprint. – How much does the
creation or expansion of what I’ll broadly
call ammentities. Again, having college-age kids
and gone on lots of tours. A lot of what they’re
selling is the academics, a lot of what they’re
selling is the dining halls and the living experience
and the neighborhood. So, everything from, I think
you’ve added quite a bit of campus housing,
on-campus housing, whether it’s university-owned
or partnered situations. You’ve got Highland Row, which is more of a fun,
entertainment district, which is important, I assume
to the recruitment process. – Profoundly important. – Do you see a correlation
between those investments and this increased pool of kids that are coming to the U of M? – No question about it. There has been significant
private investment on Highland, as you know. And that Highland Row
development in that area has been a significant
part of that. We’ve got partnerships with some of the local apartment complexes right on the edge of our campus, but we’ve also
invested significantly. We just completed the bridge, which was an $18
million project. We’ve completed,
attached to that, is a 1150 spaced parking garage, parking facility, which was critical. On one side of the bridge, there’s an amphitheater
and a new plaza. Getting ready to break ground on our student wellness
center next week. All of that’s critical. I would argue that for us, those are critical elements of a community
residential experience. I mean part of what our goal is, is to really
transform the campus into a meaningful,
residential community. Those elements
allow us to do that. All of that facilitates
retention, completion, and success for students. – For the freshman class,
what percentage live on campus or in the neighborhood? I don’t know how
you measure that. – We have about
2,600 beds on campus. The majority of those students
are freshman or sophomores that live in our facilities. We would like to double
that over the course of the next eight to ten years. And we think we have
the capacity to do that and a vision to
make that happen. I will tell you, for the
first time in our history, we actually were oversubscribed
on student housing. So we actually are
100% in housing, plus we had an additional
120 to 30 students we were not able to accommodate
that we had to move them to local apartments rather
than our facilities. We actually have a good plan and we’re gonna
make that happen. – Bill. – The bridge that
you’ve talked about, for folks who don’t know. For generations, students
at the University of Memphis have dealt with
those train tracks and getting to class on time. The train tracks
were actually there before the university was there. Let’s talk about
what that bridge, and the plaza that’s with it, means for what
changes in the area, south of the railroad tracks
all the way up to Park Avenue. – Absolutely, the bridge is
more than just being able to get over that train and
to remove that barrier. It really is about creating
a sense of community for the campus and
connections on our campus. The opportunity for growth on
that southern side of campus is significant. We’re gonna have our student
wellness center over there. We’ll be breaking
ground on that. We got Mike Rose Auditorium
that we’ll be starting the renovations and
development of that in late spring, early summer. All of those facilities
are on the other side of those tracks and
it really is critical for us to be able to
have ease of access on the southern and
northern sides of campus. And we have every
expectation of continuing to improve and
expand growth between that southern edge of campus
and the Park Avenue campus. And there’s a significant
corridor there as well. That bridge represents
a lot of things for us, but probably connection
and community are the two critical words. – With all that, Tom Bailey
who the wrote the story about the bridge
for us talked about, and paraphrasing him,
that you had pushed for, “Let’s do something of some
architectural significance.” And you can see that just
driving by south campus. You can see that in
the reconfiguration of the Central Avenue
corridor as it cuts through. When I moved to Memphis,
you really felt walled off if you drove by. You never really could see in
or feel part of the campus. Now it’s sort of there
and aesthetically, its a whole different experience to be anywhere near that area. Is that just for fun or
is that a meaningful part of the business plan
and the operational plan and the strategic plan
of the university? – Oh it’s a critical part of it. I’d tell ya, that
really is foundational. The effort is. To really have a campus
community that is inviting and welcoming and connected. That bridge was a
critical part of that. If you didn’t have the bridge, you’d feel disconnected
in many ways. It really changes the
feel of the campus, the look of the campus. It’s iconic, we wanted
an iconic image. And I think we’ve achieved that. We’ll start in October,
after the parking expansion over off of Central is completed
that’s underway right now. We will start the new
music performance facility. And you’re gonna see a facility that comes to the
edge of Central, that is inviting and welcoming, that is all the way to the
edge of that entry way, and has that same
feel and experience. – And it’s no small project. A $40 million, is that correct? – I believe $36 million
is the precise figure. – With classrooms,
rehearsal space. There are 400–I
didn’t realize this, it just somehow surprised me. 400 students in the
School of Music. – I think it may be a
little bit over that now. And it’s the only doctoral
School of Music in the state. So we’re the only
School of Music that provides doctoral
degrees as well. So it’s a critical piece
of that academic mission of the university. – Let’s talk about students, and maybe a little backtrack, talk about the geographic areas. Two things; how have the
lottery scholarships impacted the U of M? The HOPE Scholarships. And how has Bill
Haslam, former governor, and the Legislature introduced
free college tuition for up to two years. Emphasis on Associate
degrees and emphasis on TCAT, technical degrees. Has those two things
helped or hurt the U of M as its been trying to
move forward and grow? – I would tell you that
those things have helped us in significant fashion. I had a couple of concerns
about the HOPE scholarship. I’ll mention that in a
second, but I will tell you, Bill Haslam’s legacy
will be higher education and the economic impact
it has had in this state. The autonomus board has
been a big piece of that. – Your own Board of Regents–
– Absolutely. – A goal for the University
of Memphis for decades. – Part of the reason we’re
able to do what we’re doing is that we have our own board. And that we can
get things through and focus specifically on
the needs of the university. I would argue that the
Tennessee Promise that allowed community college students
to have a free experience actually has had significant
impact for us now, after the first couple of years. We have the largest
number of transfers that we’ve had– – That was my question.
– in a decade. – Are the ending in two
years or are they taking that and then going over to you? – They’re coming to us and I think the numbers
I looked at this morning. We’re close to 1500
transfer students. The majority of those are
coming from community colleges within Tennessee and the area that are a function of Tennessee Promise. The HOPE scholarship
is critical. A large number of
our students have that scholarship support. I was a little bit
concerned originally, about the reduction
in that number, even though it was
a small reduction. We have found ways
to support students in our scholarship
changes that have kept that number stable, but it is a critical element. – Ten minutes, Bill. – Because the HOPE
scholarship is tied to GPA. – It is, it’s tied to
academic performance. That’s correct. – Right, right. What does the pipeline
between high school and your campus
look like in terms of how students come prepared
to learn in higher education? – Well, it’s essential
that they come prepared. We’ve gotten more active
in terms of growth of our dual enrollment programs. I think the number I
saw this morning is we’ve got upwards of 1700
dual enrollment students. We tend to get 40% of
those students come to the University of Memphis. And the nice part of that is
they’ve already had courses with us, they can get
up to a year of credit, complete a year of credit prior
to high school graduation. That lowers cost, that
lowers student debt, and that reduces
time to graduation, which is essential. We’re building a dual
enrollment high school on our Lambuth campus
that’s supported and funded by Jackson, the City of Jackson. An $18 million facility. It’s expected to break
ground in January. That’ll be 600 students. We’re working on a dual
enrollment high school on the edge of Orange
Mound right now. That would be a dual
enrollment high school focused on entrepreneurship. The one in Jackson is focused
on the Health Sciences. Those are critical
for our future. – So getting into
dual enrollment in the Orange Mound facility. There have been
some forays into that. What prompted your university
to be interested in doing that and getting into that
end of the pipeline? – Well, we thought it
was critical around, I think the original question, around cost and
affordability and debt. There’s not a more effective way to manage cost
affordability and debt than to take those higher
performing students and allow them the opportunity
to complete a year of college prior to graduation
in high school. They perform remarkably well,
it provides a pipeline for us. We were able to manage that
instruction to make sure it’s high quality instruction. So we get a well
prepared student that’s gonna take less time
on campus, be more successful, and be more effective. – We’ve talked about
many positive things. You’ve took some shots,
took some fire over, and are still taking some
fire over $15 minimum wage. And just for people that maybe
didn’t follow it so much. Mayor Harris in
part elevated this. County Mayor Harris, when
he vetoed some spending on, I can’t say the
word, natatorium. A swimming instruction
facility on the U of M campus. It was partly funded, or
is gonna be partly funded by the county. That funding ultimately
did go through. What is your plan, or
do you have a plan, to get all the
employees on the U of M to a $15 minimum wage? – In a word, yes. And I will note that that veto, the override was 12 to
1 if I’m not mistaken. – Not that that’s relative now. Not that mattered at all
– We had significant support. – We had significant
support for that. Look, I’ve been really
transparent about this. Let me be really
clear about this. And I do think that
there’s been some effort by the CA to just manufacture
conflict where none exist. I think its a little
silly, frankly. We’ve been clear
that we support this. Over the course of
the last four years, we’ve had three significant
hourly wage increases. The first in decades at
the University of Memphis. I think a part of the
story needs to be, we’ve made enormous progress,
unparalleled progress in the increase
in the hourly wage at the University of Memphis. Our hourly wage is
well over a dollar more than the University of
Tennessee hourly wage, even though our funding
from the state is– Their funding level is almost $2 for every dollar we receive, so we are well
ahead of the game. We’re well ahead of any public
university in the state. I have very specifically
talked with our leadership team about how we will do it. One of the things
I’ve made clear is not only what we’ve done,
but how we move forward. We do our budget annually when we receive the governor’s
budget in the spring. We don’t know right
what that’s gonna be. It depends on the
governor’s budget and it depends on
our enrollment. And based on that,
every year we sit down and do our budget. And we have a clear plan on how
we’re gonna make that happen but again, it is
dependent on two variables that we will not
know until spring. And I’ve been clear with our
faculty senate about that, I’ve been clear with the
staff senate about that. And I’ve been clear with
anybody that’s interested in talking about that. Interestedly enough,
they requested my emails as a part of a Freedom
of Information request. Look, I don’t do
planning through email. We do that in meetings
and discussions and we have a clear vision
of where we’re headed. We know where we’re going and if you look at
the past four years, it’s exactly what
we’ve been doing. – In an ideal world,
you would get everyone to minimum $15 an hour when? – We have been doing
it over the course of the last two years
and we think we can do it in two more years, but again, that is contingent on
the governor continuing to support our education. It’s contingent on continuing
stability in our enrollment, in stability of our budget, and we think we’ve
demonstrated that very clearly. It is interesting that
the county recognized that for Shelby County schools, it’s not just the $15 an hour. It’s the compression above it. It’s the exact
same issue for us. It’s not the two
and a half million to increase that for
300 something employees. It’s that we got another five
to seven hundred employees above that where we’re gonna
have to address the issue of four to five million dollars
to address the compression. – Right, it is an
interesting thing. Until this all came up, I
had not thought of that. You got people who are
already at $15 an hour, based on your scale. Seniority, skills,
whatever that reason is. You can’t just bring
those people up. It’s not far to those
people already there. So everyone has to get
bumped up proportionately – Exactly. And I would encourage the
county mayor to understand that you got to treat
all of the state entities in equitable fashion. We have clearly demonstrated
that we know what we’re doing, we know how to do it,
we’ll continue to do it, and we’ll meet the goal. – Five minutes left, Bill. – As this airs, we are a week
past the the Ole Miss game. – That’s true, we tape
this a week early. – So you’re gonna congratulate
me on the great victory? – Yes, congratulations
on the great victory. But going into football season, there has again
been some rumblings about conference realignment. What can you say about that
and how serious is this? – Well I would tell you,
I’m gonna probably parrot what Bob Bowlsby said, the
commissioner for the Big 12. Anyone who tells you that
they know what’s gonna happen over the course of the next
three years is probably lying. I would tell you, I have
absolutely no certainty about what will happen
except one thing. It will be different
than it is today. Five years from now,
it will be different. There are a lot of
contracts, media rights deals that are coming up that will be renewed,
modified, extended, changed for different conferences. That will change the
landscape as a whole. I don’t profess to know
exactly what that’s gonna be. I do know it will be different and I do know that we got an
obligation, I got an obligation and I’m accountable to
position this university in the best possible way so that
when that opportunity, if it does emerge, we’re positioned
to take advantage of it. – Does what’s happening
with the football program and the basketball program,
in terms of media rights, does that make the University
of Memphis more attractive in those contracts? – There’s no question about it. And let me put a weighting
to it for you as well. When you look at,
and I was involved in the media rights negotiation for the American
Athletic Conference. I’m chair of the President’s
Committee this coming year and I can tell you
very definitively the overwhelming majority
of the issue is football. Football generates the vast
majority of the interest, the revenue, and
the opportunity. Basketball is a critical piece but being able to have a
competitive football program and a high performing
football program is critical for conference affiliation. – You have a coach of
your basketball team. A Mr. Penny Hardaway
I believe his name is. – I’ve heard of that guy. – You’ve heard of that guy. The expectations on
that basketball team and that coach are
off the charts. How much does that
come into play in your daily life as
President of U of M? I imagine you’re
excited about it. Is it a recruitment tool? Does it help with
everything from fundraising, beyond sports okay? Beyond the money in
the sports department. We talk about all of these– we’ve spent 20 plus
minutes talking about all these
academic opportunities and challenges and things. How much does this sports, and particularly that basketball
team and Penny Hardaway shine a light, good and bad, and make opportunities possible for the rest of what you do? – You know, it’s hard to say
exactly how significant it is, other than to tell you it’s
remarkably significant. I mean, the visibility
that you get out of athletics is tremendous. We raised a record amount
last year, $44 million, and over $32 million of
that was for academics. So we raised $3 academically
for every dollar athletically but I would tell you, part of the reason we raised
a record of $44 million was a function of the
visibility of athletics. And the nice part is
we got two coaches, in terms of the revenue sports,
of basketball and football that embrace high expectations and Coach Hardaway has
never shied away from that. And Coach Norvell has
never shied away from that. I think that’s fabulous. And certainly it increased
opportunity for some friction from time to time nationally. That’s okay, that’s just a
part of what the issue is. It’s a part of the challenge. – 45 seconds here. You have a new athletic
director, Laird Veatch. – Fabulous, absolutely. Couldn’t have gotten
a better person who, and I think you’re
gonna discover, is a remarkably good
fit for Memphis. And he’s gonna the
thing to the next step. – And Allie Prescott, who
came in as the interim. And is a really storied
figure around U of M and around all kinds of
things sports in Memphis and other issues. He will stay attached to
the U of M in some fashion? – He will. He’s gonna stay attached
with us through the spring. He’s gonna work with me
as a special advisor. We’ve got some development
projects we’re working on now that you’re gonna
hear more about, and he’s gonna help see
those to completion. – All right, we
will leave it there. Didn’t get to some
of the other things but we’ll leave it. Not enough time left. Thank you for being here. – My pleasure. – Thank you Bill and
thank you for joining us. Join us again, next week. [dramatic orchestral music] [acoustic guitar chords]

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