Discovery Park, October 26, 2011
President V. Lane Rawlins met with students in the student lounge at Discovery Park for his second Really, let's talk session of the fall 2011 semester.
Rawlins opened the session by highlighting some of the great things taking place on campus and encouraging students to attend Mean Green football games at UNT's new Apogee Stadium.
"It's been a good year for the university so far," Rawlins told the crowd of about 40 students, which included faculty and a group of visiting students and faculty from China. "I'm sure you've read about some of the big gifts this summer and that we've opened new facilities on campus."
Future tuition costs
Possible tuition increases in the future was the first question posed to Rawlins.
Rawlins acknowledged that tuition would likely increase by single digit percentages in the future and pointed out that tuition costs reflect the highly qualified faculty and state-of-the-art facilities and classrooms that UNT provides to students.
"The real objective is to provide a high-quality education and within that to keep tuition as low as possible," he said.
He referred to a recent state report, which shows that UNT offers the most affordable research university education among public research institutions in Texas.
"What happens to tuition will be very closely tied to what the state does with our budget," he said. "We will try to keep tuition as low as we can but the most important thing is to offer you a quality education."
Professional degree offerings
A student asked if there are plans to offer more professional degree programs, such as nursing, at UNT.
Burggren, the provost, said that the UNT System has a law school in the works in the city of Dallas. He also said a group of UNT administrators have been looking at what other professional programs the university might add, including nursing, social work, public policy, architecture and veterinary and dental schools. Through collaboration with the UNT Health Science Center, UNT is currently exploring the possibility of adding a pharmacy program, he said.
"We're now going to put together a focus group that will come together to see what we really have to do to make these programs work," Burggren said.
Rawlins told students that for UNT to add additional professional programs, it would have to be economically viable and not require subsidizing from existing programs.
Future campus facilities
A new art building also came up for discussion when a student asked if UNT has future plans to build one.
"That is absolutely accurate," Rawlins said. "It was one of the top buildings we presented to the legislature in Austin in this last session. The bad news is that the legislature did not fund any buildings."
Rawlins said the College of Visual Arts and Design doesn't have sufficient classroom or museum space. The President's Capital Projects Council, which is responsible for prioritizing UNT's building and improvement projects, is studying the means of financing for a new art building, he said.
Another student asked if UNT plans to build a recreation center at Discovery Park.
"That would have to be a facility built using student fees," Rawlins said. The university is prohibited from spending state-appropriated bond money on recreation facilities, he said.
With, the vice president for Student Affairs, added that university officials are looking at ways to add recreation-type equipment and activities at Discovery Park, including a walking path, soccer fields and a basketball court.
Expanding food options at Discovery Park also was another question posed by students.
Providing a variety of food options at Discovery Park has been a challenge because of the amount of students and times of day that they attend classes there, With said.
The university will conduct another needs assessment for food options to determine what things need to change, she said. Students also were encouraged to take advantage of newly formed student advisory board at Discovery Park to voice their concerns and recommendations.
Football and university image
Increasing support for student organizations and other programs also came up during the session. A student suggested that the university should support student organizations more, just as it does with football.
Football is a tool to get people more interested in the university, Rawlins explained to students.
"We will look into support for your organization," he told the student. "But let me follow up on the inference and reference to football. The fact is that whether you're a football fan or not, the reason I want you to support football at the University of North Texas is that the image of an institution is more affected by football than any other single fact. And that is sad but it's true. And if you ignore the truth, you do it at your own peril."
He added that UNT is trying to enhance its image.
"We're trying to find a better way to associate this institution in the minds of Texans and people who are interested in higher education," he said.
Student clubs and organizations
With, the vice president for student affairs, elaborated on how student clubs and organizations are funded at UNT. She said UNT's Student Service Fee Committee, which is made up solely of students, recommends how to distribute roughly $11 million that is allocated for student services and programs each year. Additionally, the Student Government Association oversees $55,000 to $60,000 in organizational funding each year, she said.
With said that there is no longer a cap on the amount of funding student organizations can request and she encouraged student groups to make their funding needs known.
Devin Axtman, SGA's director of Student Affairs, added that the $55,000 SGA oversees is for the entire year and his organization still has some of it left to distribute.
"If you're in an organization please apply because the SGA can help fund your organization," he said.
In closing his discussion, Rawlins told students the reason he came out of retirement to serve as president of UNT was because of them.
"I felt I had more to give to students," he said. "Students have always been the focus of my career. It gives me great joy to talk to students concerned about how they're going to get a job and wanting to know who they should talk to. Just the energy of this generation, I believe, is going to keep me young for several more decades."