President Rosenberg talks growth and expansion with Student Media

Madison Fantozzi & Brandon Wise//FIUSM Staff

With the University ranking seventh largest in the nation with its estimated fall enrollment, President Mark B. Rosenberg sat down with Student Media on Oct. 7 at Biscayne Bay Campus to discuss fundraising, partnerships and expansion — internal, online and into UniversityCity.

FIUSM : With the University surpassing its enrollment goal, will the admissions process be more selective for students in the future?

Rosenberg : We have a very selective process already. The grade point average for the fall freshman is 3.8 and the average SAT score is 1715. It’s the highest it’s been in a long time.

But FIU is not going to measure itself by who it excludes. We’re a public University, we have a commitment to our community, there’s a tremendous demand for higher education and we think it’s important that we not turn our backs on our community.

[pullquote]I’m less obsessed about the size than I am about the quality that can be leveraged from scale.[/pullquote] You can look at the array of activities and the array of opportunities that come about as a consequence of the fact that we are bigger and better.

When I was chancellor, I looked at what would be the optimal size for a university….and the answer is there is no optimal size. Arizona State University is huge and the University of Minnesota is huge, but they use that scale to provide tremendous opportunity to their students. I want my students to have the same opportunities.

I’m not going to measure myself by who I exclude. I don’t think that’s a 21st-century public formula for success. Yes, I worry about size, but I worry more about not having 21st-century opportunities for our students.

FIUSM : Are there plans to expand the University’s footprint in correlation with growing enrollment?

Rosenberg : We’re going to be out of footprint in about seven years at [Modesto Maidique Campus]. We have the smallest main campus out of the 12 public universities. We’re 342 acres. Most campuses are double that size.

[The University] is the largest economic development project in the county. FIU now is a $1.2 billion budget. In 20 years it will be another billion if we can grow correctly the academic health center and the medical center. The medical center and academic health center will be a standalone $1 billion enterprise. We are really well placed to be a solution center in health, but we need more land  to make that happen for our community.

[pullquote]But the anchor for this is MMC and we are basically out of footprint. And when you’re out of footprint, you’re out of opportunity. And I don’t think anybody wants us not to be a significant opportunity for our community.[/pullquote]

We’ve added more online courses. We’re sensitive to trying to meet that part of the demand. We’ve expanded down to Brickell — Brickell is self-sustaining. We have expanded to South Beach. We’re in the process of expanding to West Broward with the partnership we’re doing with Broward College. And of course we’re expanding at this campus [BBC].

We’ve taken some small steps [in acquiring the fairgrounds], but it’s a process and it’s important that we get it right. We want to make sure that our partnership with [Miami-Dade County] Youth Fair can be a win-win.

FIUSM : How do you think our online program will compete with the online programs of other universities?

Rosenberg : We’re very competitive, we’re high quality, there’s a lot of people who love the FIU brand and want to be associated with it, and we’re very competitive globally.

In the old days, universities had monopolies over education, assessment and location. That meant if you wanted a degree, you were going to UF, here were the requirements, here’s when you had to be there and here’s how they were going to grade you.

Nowadays, we have lost our monopoly on assessment and location, so we have to fight for our share of the learning marketplace. But I’m very confident that we can compete because we have a great brand, name recognition, quality and we are very global.

FIUSM : Will the cost of online courses become cheaper?

Rosenberg : [The University of Florida] got a huge subsidy. In the short term, that makes the playing field uneven. But I’m confident we can make up for it. I do see a flattening of the fee structure. I can’t predict how, but the market will flatten it. But there are still a lot of people willing to pay because they know there’s a lot of quality in our online [program]. I don’t take that for granted. What has happened is that education has become commoditized.

It becomes about getting the right price at the right time, and clearly we’re going to have to look at that. But my instinct is that people will pay for quality. Some universities don’t have the fee, but what is the quality of that learning experience? I think we’ll hold up quite nicely if you look at the total package.

FIUSM : What is your vision for UniversityCity?

Rosenberg : [pullquote]Philosophically, if you give FIU a pile of rocks we want to build bridges not walls.  [/pullquote]

A lot of [students, faculty and staff] live in Sweetwater, and so we’d like to see it become a University-centric community. The university is going to grow rapidly. The consequence of that is that we’d like to ensure that Sweetwater transforms. It’s a great place now, but it could be much more aligned with the needs and the opportunities that are going to happen as a consequence and the result of the University changing.

We’ve had great working relations with Sweetwater… and I’m glad we can get some of our incredible energy into Sweetwater. UniversityCity is a very important first step in building that closer working relationship and the grant from the department of transportation really accelerates that process of having a great community to live in right next door to the University.

FIUSM : Is there any update on the University’s deal with Royal Caribbean Cruises?

Rosenberg : We are getting ready to sign that agreement. It’s important because in the 21st century, without partnerships, you can’t go to the next level of quality.

I’m excited about the possibility that when RCL sees our students — their diversity, their energy and their strength — they’re going to think through a lof of opportunities for our students not just in entertainment, but in management, finance and operations. Plus, I see this campus [BBC] as an education center. There are all types of education and I want us to be involved in those consistent with our mission [that] help our students to be competitive in the marketplace.

We’re moving ahead with the new residence hall. There will be bumps in the road [and] maybe a transition where we will need to get a residence hall off-campus, but that would be kind of a one-year inconvenience and it seems to me, as it relates to the bigger picture and the benefits that will come to the University through this partnership, that it’s a tradeoff that’s worth taking.

FIUSM : How confident are you in meeting the University’s fundraising goal?

Rosenberg : We have a campaign of $750 million and there’s a lot of people who say it can’t be done. There’s a lot of wealth in this community and we shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for the community’s support. I’m confident we’re going to hit our goal.

I’d rather have a big goal and fall short, than [to have] a modest goal and reach it. It would be a crime at this point in FIU’s evolution.[pullquote]If we aren’t willing to write our own checks, why should the community?[/pullquote]

 We’re a major public university that should have a major endowment. I looked at where we should be and looked at other universities and saw what was going on around the state. We should have a $1 billion endowment. Right now, we have an endowment of about $250 million.

It means [we need] $300-$400 million gifts. This is not small stuff. Someone’s going to write a check that’s nine figures. But I’d rather have a big goal and go after it, than a small goal and settle. The Foundation agrees with me and they have a responsibility to raise that money and write the checks, and I’m writing checks. If we aren’t willing to write our own checks, why should the community?


Be the first to comment on "President Rosenberg talks growth and expansion with Student Media"

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.