Dear Campus Community:
In our Spring Campus Conference sessions, we started what will be an ongoing and important conversation about Mines’ future. To kick off the discussion, audience feedback was solicited for six questions. That led to a higher education benchmarking presentation, confirmation of the direction we want to go, and the things we have to accomplish to become the top-of-mind and destination university we aspire to be.
Campus responses to the opening six questions are summarized below, along with responses from the Colorado School of Mines Foundation Board of Governors. I’ve included thoughts on what these and the benchmarking data indicate our path forward needs to be.
Please take the time to review these, as well as the benchmarking data, design guidelines, and next steps/homework assignments in the campus presentation.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and input and look forward to your contributions to our design and evolution.
Question 1: Which School Would You Attend?
Question 2: Which School Do You Want to Be?
Both of these questions were posed relative to the table below, which provides data for three different schools, including indicators of reputation, cost and student success.
The responses to both questions were consistent for all audiences as shown below. All audiences preferred School A and School B was the least preferred of the three choices.
It was then revealed that School B was Mines, while Schools A and C represented smaller (<7000 undergraduates) and larger (>7000 undergraduates) high-STEM universities, respectively. Their “data” were mean values for all schools grouped in those two categories.
These responses – especially the fact that School B (Mines) was the least preferred of the three choices – should be a wake-up call for us. Mines is fueled by the top students we attract, and we do not want to lose them to other schools. In our most recent recruiting cycle, 23% of admitted students chose to attend Mines, with the yield of out-of-state students being only about one out of eight. For reference, the median yield for the Cohort A schools is about 33%, or one out of three admits.
Detailed benchmarking of Mines relative to other high-STEM degree universities is included in the campus presentation. Both larger and smaller enrollment cohorts are groups of excellent universities and we share characteristics with both groups. We currently look more like the larger enrollment public schools than the smaller privates in most metrics except size (we are smaller) and cost (we tend to cost more). We stand out relative to all of them in return-on-investment (based on salaries earned vs. cost of education) and rankings of our resource-extraction degree programs.
Question 3: Which two factors were most important in your decision?
Audiences were provided four options, from which two could be selected.
Reputation/Quality and Outcomes/Student Success were most frequently identified as key factors, which are consistent with the preferences to be, and attend School A. These also happen to be two areas in which School B (Mines) does not compare favorably relative to School A. The responses indicate the importance of improving our retention and graduation rates.
Question 4: To date, what is Mines best known for?
This question was asked mainly to calibrate the audiences’ knowledge of what drives our reputation today.
Most respondents correctly identified the successes of our bachelor’s degree graduates as the foundation of our reputation today. It is important that we all understand this, as we have to preserve, reinforce and protect this aspect of our reputation as we move forward.
Question 5: What do recruiters and CEOs most frequently say are the best characteristics of our graduates?
This question was asked to assess if our internal campus community recognizes why companies value our graduates and recruit and hire them.
More than 50% of the audience respondents identified “deep major-specific knowledge, bright and hard-working” as the best characteristics of our undergraduates. This might not be surprising given the time we seem to spend debating and protecting curricular depth within our academic programs.
Based on personal experience and that of our Career Center, however, the most frequent response from recruiters and CEOs is “bright, hard-working and team skills.” Resilience is also mentioned from time to time, while deep major-specific knowledge rarely is. In particular, team skills and the ability “to get things done” are most frequently mentioned as the differentiators for our graduates compared to graduates from other universities.
This is important to note as Mines moves into the future. Our tendency to protect disciplinary depth will be in conflict with our desire to become more like members of the School A cohort, and could ultimately be a barrier to our success. School A cohort members generally offer more degree flexibility, more pathways to graduation and more degree options. Instead of narrowly focusing on isolated curricular depth, we should be complementing and reinforcing those components of a Mines education and experience that lead to our graduates’ superior performance in teams and their ability to get things done.
Question 6: Approximate % of revenue (-R&D) from a) families, b) state-based support, and c) philanthropy?
This question was asked to assess the audiences’ knowledge of our sources of revenue. This is a follow-up to campus presentations given by our CFO, Kirsten Volpi, in early 2017, that addressed our financial situation and covered sources of revenue, costs and future projections.
The correct answer is 78% (families), 10% (state) and 12% (philanthropy). Roughly two-thirds of the audiences correctly identified that the state contribution is ≤10%, but about one-third thought that state support still exceeds 25% today.
We need to understand the sources and scale of investment from our different funding and investment sources, as this must be a consideration in the strategies we pursue for the long-term success of Mines. State support, as a percentage of our overall budget, is unlikely to increase and is more likely to continue to decrease over time. These factors, combined with the smaller size we prefer to be, are why we have to think and act like a private university, and why we have to be much more in tune with the needs, interests, and expectations of our students and their families. We have to provide the customer experience they can get at the elite group of top-of-mind and destination institutions we aspire to join. Otherwise, we risk losing the amazing, creative and hard-working students that attracted many of us to Mines in the first place.