Part 1 in a Series:
By Michelle Naranjo
“Stop and take a breath and realize where we are and where we are going.”
That is how President Cosentino opened up the State of the University address on Monday in
the Josephine Abney Cultural Center auditorium. Speaking to an audience of board members,faculty, staff, donors, alumni, students and Greenwood community leaders, President Cosentino, referred to those in attendance as the Lander University stakeholders who are the motivation behind his strategic plan to transform the university into a top regional and state institution.
Cosentino explained his vision to rebrand Lander by asking questions, leaders before him had not asked. Who hires our graduates? Do our alumni care about the future of the university? What is the role between the community (Greenwood) and the university? How can we attract more international degree-seeking students? How do we improve our retention ratings? And other more challenging logistical questions that will push Lander into the competitive higher education rankings of the country’s top universities.
Enrollment is up by over 160 student from last fall and Cosentino affirms that Lander has the top 50 enrollment team in the U.S., headed by Jennifer Mathis in Admissions and Andy Benoit in Enrollment Services. Two new out of state recruiting positions were created out of the office of Admissions, placing permanent recruiters in Buckhead, Georgia and Jacksonville, Florida, to help increase out of state student enrollment. The average percentage of out of states students who come to study in South Carolina is around 51%, in comparison to Lander who only host 7% out of state students in its overall student population. Two new international recruiters have been hired to the International Programs office to increase interest abroad for foreign students to come study, live, and learn in Greenwood, SC. Out of the 260 international students only 23 are degree seeking students who are not athletes. The president hopes to change those statistics with the help and coordination of the Admissions office and the new international recruiters. Through recruitment, ranking and investment, the president believes he will increase the satisfaction level of the students of the university as well as their college experience as a whole.
His goal for the next coming year is to focus on Lander’s strategic plan and pillars. This five year plan entails ten different achievements that must be met to ensure the university continues to attract degree-seeking students, jump in national rankings, and rethink the way Lander is perceived in the state of South Carolina and beyond. Cosentino believes “the solution is not to go forward, but instead to invest.” An increase in invest will allow for smarter, better classrooms, laboratories, facilities, and will lock tuition in at $10,700 a year for four years. Fees at an average four-year university range around $1,300 in the south, Lander was only charging $173 a years before Cosentino arrived and the funds were being allocated from tuition to cover certain university expenses. Now, students pay $500 a year in fees for security, safety, athletics, student activities, education and technology resources, and they are being used for those exact fee services.
In a Tim Cook-esque style of addressing his audience on Monday, the president laid out the groundwork of what he and his staff have accomplished so far in an eight-month time frame and what is to come. Cosentino has placed all his attention the past year in creating and updating the university’s values, strategy, mission, vision and brand. Though many before him may have had plans and ideas, the president acknowledges that “Strategy is meaningless without execution.”