When it comes to the success of a university, there are many measuring sticks to use. The question is: which metrics have significance for how to move the university forward?
That's what Penn State President Eric Barron tried to answer Friday as he presented to the board of trustees on some metrics he thinks will be useful to help see how the university is functioning and evolving.
The next steps, he said, involve continuing to develop Institutional Dashboard Metrics and to use metrics to assess the performance and success of the university, promote transparency and figure out what work is left to be done.
Institutional metrics and rankings
Penn State's undergraduate and graduate enrollment at University Park is basically flat.
"We’re at the level that we think we should be at," Barron said in an interview Tuesday with the CDT.
The same is true of the commonwealth campuses, which are "bucking" the state trend of declining enrollments, he said.
World Campus enrollment is growing, though.
The university's institutional credit rating from Moody's is Aa1, which is a "high" credit rating.
The endowments continue to grow, reaching about $2.75 billion in fiscal year 2017. Annual commitments in fundraising have had a couple peaks in the past decade, and the university had just its third year in its history where commitments were more than $300 million.
"We actually have a very different philosophy; we want sustained fundraising, not these large fluctuations. Sustained fundraising of over $300 million a year is our goal," Barron said.
Research enterprise is at an "all-time record," Barron said. Research expenditures in 2017 totaled $863 million.
Access and affordability
For the past decade, about 19 percent of all Pennsylvania high school graduates apply to Penn State. Also relatively stable is the yield on that — the percent of those who apply that decide to attend Penn State — at between 46 and 51 percent.
Barron said that's important to pay attention to because the number of high school graduates in Pennsylvania is in decline. If those numbers were changing a lot, it would mean Penn State would become less or more of a Pennsylvania university.
Probably the most unusual marker of the university's success is that U.S. News and World Report predicts Penn State's graduation rate, and Penn State far exceeds it "over and over and over again," Barron said.
"A lot of other presidents notice this. 'What are you doing that so many of your students are graduating when people are predicting based on their demographics that they won't?'" he said.
There had been a steady increase in average loan debt at graduation, but in the past few years, it's started to go down. In 2016-17, the average in-state student's debt was $35,543, while the average out-of-state student's was $40,329.
In 2016, the number of paid Penn State Alumni Association members was 176,427. Barron said some people view this as "if you loved your education at Penn State, you'll stay connected."
Average attendance at football games is on the rise, up to 106,707 in 2017-18 from 100,257 in 2016-17. Average attendance in 2017-18 for other sporting events was 27,791.
Diversity and inclusion
There's been slow progress over the past decade in percentage of minority faculty members and minority staff/administrators, Barron said, but it's starting to tick up.
In 2017, about 30 percent of full-time faculty university-wide were minorities, up from about 18 percent in 2008. Meanwhile, in fall 2017, the percent of administrators/staff (university-wide) who were minorities was 13, up from about 5 percent in fall 2008.
Graduation rate by race/ethnicity university-wide hasn't changed much, but unfortunately, Barron said, African-American students and Hispanic students are graduating at a lower rate than white students.
"This is something that we would very much like to see change," he said.
Underrepresented minority students also tend to have a lower sense of belonging and sense of safety/security than white students, Barron said.
In fall 2017, 10,160 international students were enrolled at Penn State (7,024 undergraduates and 3,136 graduates).
"The draw of a Penn State education globally has been strong," Barron said.
Additionally, more than 2,000 Penn State students study abroad annually.
Invent Penn State has 21 LaunchBoxes across the state, and in 2016-17, with only five hubs open the full year, more than 2,500 faculty staff and students engaged in entrepreneurial activities. Beyond that, 80 new products were developed, and 79 startups launched.
Penn State has reduced campus greenhouse gas emissions by 18 percent since 2005, and has set a goal to reduce 35 percent by 2020.
The university’s ongoing programs have saved, or avoided, energy costs of more than $62 million since 2003.