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Sound Business Plan Drives Innovation and Growth at Governors State University


From left: Kevin Reilly, presidential advisor for leadership, ACE; ACE President Molly Corbett Broad; Governors State President Elaine Maimon; Mark Becker; and Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president, Tax-Exempt Marketing and Business Strategy, Fidelity Investments. Photo is courtesy of Megan Cotten, American Council on Education.

From left: Kevin Reilly, presidential advisor for leadership, ACE; ACE President Molly Corbett Broad; Governors State President Elaine Maimon; Mark Becker; and Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president, Tax-Exempt Marketing and Business Strategy, Fidelity Investments. Photo is courtesy of Megan Cotten, American Council on Education.


Press release from Governors State University:

How does a small public university drive innovation and growth in an era of shrinking budgets? Among all of the small universities in the country, Governors State University has shown the way according to the American Council on Education, naming GSU the winner of the 2015 ACE/Fidelity Investments Award for Institutional Transformation.

The award, which was presented today at ACE’s 97th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., singles out GSU for its transformation through innovation and its sound business plan. The award, with its $10,000 prize, recognizes institutions that have responded to higher education challenges in innovative and resourceful ways, achieving dramatic changes in a relatively brief period.

“Putting students first is a good business plan. We are addressing the big national issues in higher education by implementing a business strategy structured for a 21st century university,” said Governors State President Elaine P. Maimon, who accepted the award on behalf of the university. The tripartite strategy focused on designing a new state-of-the-art four year bachelor’s program , creating clear pathways from community college to university graduation, and redirecting resources to meet the changing needs of today’s students.

GSU’s success is notable in that it occurred in an era of contraction in state funding resulting in a 15 percent cut in appropriations over the past five years. Despite these constraints, GSU maintained the lowest tuition and fee rate of any Illinois state university. GSU reorganized how funds were spent through strategic planning and broad-based budget reallocation. The university consistently enforced belt-tightening measures together with strategies to improve efficiency and productivity, concentrating on programs to prepare students to join Illinois’ highly skilled labor force. At the same time, GSU found ways to develop new markets and to aggressively increase enrollment, further enhancing the return on investment to Illinois taxpayers. The result is a 13.2 percent increase in credit hours over the past five years at a time when all other regional public universities in Illinois are shrinking.

Governors State inaugurated a new lower division program in fall 2014, admitting freshmen for the first time and becoming a full service university. Years of fiscal restraint enabled GSU to fund $3 million in new infrastructure necessary to transition to a comprehensive four-year university and to implement new academic programs, attuned to the needs of the time.

Entering freshmen, 67 percent of whom receive Pell grants, are taught in small classes by committed, full-time faculty members. Governors State President Maimon said, “From day one, our freshmen are engaging with the top intellects on the faculty.”

GSU also strengthened its commitment to transfer students by delivering a seamless and supportive pathway from associate degree to bachelor’s degree through its Dual Degree Program. The DDP connects GSU with 17 Chicago-area community college partners to improve both two-year and four-year graduation rates and offers participants the prospect of significantly higher lifetime earnings. Reflecting on this national recognition, President Maimon said, “We hope to inspire other universities to invest in the first-year experience, to create clear pathways from community college to university graduation, and to reallocate resources to better serve 21st century students.”

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ABOUT THE AMERICAN COUNCIL ON EDUCATION ACE is the nation’s premier organization for higher education, with membership representing more than 1,700 college and university presidents from both the public and private sectors. ACE received nominations and applications for this highly competitive award from colleges and universities from across the United States. GSU was the national winner for institutions with student populations of up to 5,000. The ACE award, in its second year, was divided into two categories: one for institutions with student populations less than 5,000 and another for institutions of 5,000 or more. Georgia State University was the winner in the second category. Rick Mitchell, executive vice president, Tax-Exempt Retirement Services, Fidelity Investments, which partnered in the award with ACE, said, “Georgia State and Governors State universities have shown exceptional leadership and achievement within the higher education community, and deserve recognition for their efforts to make higher education more accessible to all students.”

A related story was published in the Tribune/Daily Southtown. Read it here.

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