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Editorial: Students deserve a voice in future changes

On Tuesday, Sept. 20, President Richard Carvajal sent a video to faculty and staff addressing a strategic plan to focus on current and future VSU students.

The video addressed declining enrollment of traditional students, or undergraduates attending in-person classes on campus, and how despite efforts to up recruitment, numbers have been steadily decreasing at schools around the nation for almost two years.

This drop in enrollment, according to Dr. Carvajal, cannot be attributed to just one thing. Views on higher education, a drop in birth rates following the Great Recession, declining high school graduate rates, the COVID pandemic and more have all played a role.

“Let’s all remember, this isn’t the first time VSU has faced and overcome challenges,” Dr. Carvajal said. “Those who came before us did so not by denying what was happening and waiting for things to go back to the way they were… They did the hard work to ensure the institution they loved best positioned itself to attract and serve the needs of the greatest number of learners…”

According to Dr. Carvajal, current administration needs to follow in the steps of the people before them.

In recent strategic plans, VSU has strived to push more focus onto its online and graduate programs, and in order to do that, the focus on traditional students may be affected.

According to the video, the declining population of incoming traditional students will be hard for VSU to challenge, even if recruitment continues; this is why VSU is planning to refocus their recruitment advances to the online and graduate schools programs.

“It is important to acknowledge the hard truth that changing demographics and reduced funding mean that some level of fundamental change to our traditional undergraduate experience is necessary,” Dr. Carvajal said. “… Many believe that the most successful universities of tomorrow will be those that begin the transformation now, but we can’t stop there… We need to actively pursue and invest in other markets where the potential for growth does exist.”

While no final decisions have been made for the changes the traditional learning experience will face, one thing is for certain: They’re coming, and they’re coming soon.

According to the video, while focus will continue to be given to the traditional experience, it will be to cut what is no longer needed; meanwhile, online and graduate programs will be expanded on, hopefully drawing in a higher enrollment of students to both non-traditional and traditional learning.

We at the Spectator believe this is counterintuitive.

Student enrollment is down; however, instead of providing less in focus and recruitment of traditional experiences, VSU needs to continue doing more.

It is a common complaint among the student body that not enough resources are available to traditional students. By taking away from the traditional student experience, there is a high chance that more resources will be cut, giving students even less of what they are asking for.

We also believe this video should have been sent to students, not just faculty and staff. Faculty are the ones who make the changes and enforce them; however, students will be primarily affected.

While enrollment is down, traditional students make up over half of the current student body. This means those students currently enrolled will have to face the final changes decided on, both positive and negative.

In our opinion, students should have a role in any potential changes and be asked for their opinions and suggestions.

We agree with Dr. Carvajal’s belief that VSU is a unified campus of people, past, present and future. However, students must participate in the discussions, or it will divide us all.

This editorial reflects the general opinion of The Spectator. 

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