Saint Louis University

Environmental Influences

The priority trends that emerged from the SWOT questionnaires, from the internal and external scans, and from the Strategic Planning Group's map of trends include:

  • the pervasiveness of technology
  • a demographically more diverse population
  • students of today
  • higher education in response to students of today
  • accountability
  • the new competition
  • SLU's location in a metropolitan area and in a global context
  • facilities for a changing environment
  • the Church and the University.

The Pervasiveness of Technology
Technology affects every aspect of University life. Each admitted class of students will bring increasing levels of computer sophistication. Students will increasingly arrive at SLU with digital personal computing and communication devises.

They will expect to have access to academic information, administrative services, the University network, and world-wide communication from every place they live and work. Students will expect systems to work reliably and constantly.

Faculty are increasingly pressured to adopt technology-based approaches to teaching and learning. Growing numbers of faculty will use WebCT, on-line interactive courses, electronic student portfolios, streaming audio and video, on-line searching and retrieval of information, and other types of technologically mediated-instruction. The changes in pedagogy and delivery will increase the need for faculty development.

Individualized instruction, distributed learning, and asynchronous learning options will broaden. The market for new modes of distributed learning options will increase. New teaching and learning approaches that free students from the time and place of scheduled classes will evolve.

Training in technology for staff will continue to grow in importance and will be seen as an essential and continuing part of any staff member's work life. Communication across campus will change as videoconferencing networks develop. Competition for information technology workers will continue.

As a result of technology, the physical properties of existing and new classrooms will need to be flexible to change from past to future configurations and accommodate the unique needs of varied academic programs.

A Demographically More Diverse Population
The Midwest has been falling behind other regions in population growth for a number of decades. This will continue through 2005. African Americans will make up the largest non-white group in Missouri in 2005, comprising about 12 percent of the population. The Hispanic population will continue to grow at a more rapid rate than the white and African American populations in the U.S. However, Missouri's share of Asian, American Indian, and Hispanic groups will be smaller than the representation of these groups in the nation at large.

The group aged 18 to 24 will increase in size during the next five years. This increase will be the result of the coming to adulthood of the baby boom echo cohorts. These are the larger cohorts of children born to the baby boom parents during the 1980s. However, once this echo effect has passed after 2005, there will be declines in this age group. While nationally, there will be an increase of eight percent in this age group, increases in the Midwest, particularly in Missouri and Illinois, will be only half that. The African American population in Missouri will be younger than the white population.

The Hispanic population will have an even younger age structure. Many of the increases in size of the elderly population will be made up of white non-Hispanics. Large increases in the proportion of elderly will not occur until after 2012 when baby boom cohorts enter their senior years.

Patterns of declining populations in older city cores and growth on the fringes of metropolitan areas will probably continue. People in core cities and in older, inner-ring suburbs will be poorer than those living farther away from the central cities.

Students of Today
Students of today are increasingly described as consumers of higher education, interested in what the university can do for them, and concerned about the return on their time and educational investment. Their expectations are that the university will be student-centered as opposed to the traditional teacher-centered academy.

The trend points to students valuing education primarily for its ability to gain them high-paying jobs as opposed to valuing learning; a generation whose scope of vision does not include traditional academic values. Students want programs and services available on demand, convenience, and courteous personnel. They require high quality products at reasonable costs, and they are willing to comparison shop.

Higher Education in Response to Students of Today
Responding to students as consumers is one of the factors giving rise to the new face of higher education: the growth of for-profit institutions, for-profit arms of the oldest universities of higher education in the United States, institutions that deliver education solely asynchronously, brokers of higher education courses and degrees, partnerships and mergers among traditional competitors, and institutions that have traditionally served local populations expanding out-of-state and internationally.

Within institutions of higher education, the traditional mission of teaching, research, and service is being re-examined. Questions continue about the role of interdisciplinary curricula, the balance between teaching and research, and the nature of partnerships with government, business and industry, and other external organizations.

The costs of higher education continue to increase while students and their parents demand results for their investments. Accrediting organizations, licensing boards, and governmental agencies require more explicit documentation and evidence of outcomes.

The New Competition
SLU competitors include other Jesuit institutions; low-cost institutions e.g. the University of Missouri and the local community colleges; high-quality institutions e.g. Washington University; high convenience institutions e.g. Webster and the multitude of universities offering distance delivery; and other institutions both regionally and nationally especially for graduate students and faculty.

It is challenging to define a unique position, maintain enrollment, and offer competitive pricing in today's higher education market. Rising tuition costs and the ability of the University to retain its competitive edge are primary concerns.
Since many colleges and universities have similar faculty demographics, there will be increased competition when searching for new faculty. There is concern about recruiting and retaining high quality, productive faculty.

SLU's Location in a Metropolitan Area and in a Global Context
While the context of higher education has changed from local to global, SLU remains firmly rooted in its community. Metropolitan universities are seen as having a unique role as a special type of university based upon their location in the city boundaries.

The successful university is viewed as an active participant in resolving issues important to its surrounding community. In addition, students, parents, and employers expect graduates to be proficient in interacting with people across the globe and with people from different cultures.

Facilities for a Changing Environment
Expansion; new programs; new delivery systems; new pedagogy; limited classroom, laboratory, and office space; and student demands for up-to-date housing put a strain on resources and the ability of the University to meet faculty and student needs. SWOT respondents questioned the University's use of resources for campus improvement and identified areas where they believe the institution does not meet minimal standards.

Concerns were raised about the condition of the classrooms on campus, especially the desks, about the cost of parking, and about the potential for insufficient residence hall spaces.

The Church and the University
The context of Catholic higher education is changing. Some of the changes, which may impact the operation of Saint Louis University, include a new Pope, increasing numbers of immigrant Catholics, and the implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae.

Within the next five years, it seems likely that the Roman Catholic Church will have a new leader. The potential impact of a change of leadership on the world-wide Catholic Church and on the local Church is far reaching.

Increasing numbers of immigrant Catholics (Hispanic, Eastern European, Asian) will require the diocese to strategize about how best to meet the spiritual needs of those constituents. The University may be called upon to assist the diocese in addressing challenges presented by this situation. These changes may affect student demographics.

Implementation of Ex Corde Ecclesiae may present challenges for Catholic higher education in the U.S., in particular, the requirements applicable to Catholic theologians.

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