University on track to higher enrollment, online classes and retention

Michelle Marchante/News Director

The University is on track to meeting their goals for their five year strategic plan which involves higher retention rates, increased enrollment and more online classes, university officials said.

Created by Provost Kenneth Furton in collaboration with students, faculty, staff, alumni and community leaders, the interdisciplinary plan Beyond Possible 2020 is a “roadmap” to the year 2020, according to Howard Holness, chief of academic administration, and focuses on 20 key performance indicators.

These indicators, according to the plan’s official document, focuses on four key areas: Student Success, Preeminent Programs, Carnegie Very High Research Designation and Financial Base/Efficiency.

The name of the plan, according to Furton, is meant to convey what President Mark B. Rosenberg always likes to say: that FIU is “turning the impossible into the inevitable.”

“Beyond Possible means that we’re going to do things that other say are impossible for us and our students,” Furton said. “So some of our goals…have never been achieved by a minority-majority institution.”

The school, they agree, has seen an improvement in each of their goals.

In 2014, the school had $133 million in research expenditures– money funded through grants and sponsors for research projects– and plan to have $200 million by 2020. They currently have $175 million.

4,737 students held internships in 2014 and the school has already surpassed their 2020 goal of 6,000 students by 2,697 this year.

And the school actually surpassed their 2020 goal for post-docs last year, Holness said, with the school having reached 200 post-docs, above the planned 129 they were expected to reach by 2020.

The patents, however, Furton said, are a “crystal-clear example” of how FIU is achieving the impossible.

The plan set a goal of 20 patents per year, according to Furton, a goal that “people would say was beyond possible” as the school had less than 40 patents since it opened its doors in 1972. But not only has the school reached their goal already, he said, but are planning on exceeding it.

“It was the biggest stretch hole in the plan,” Furton said. “If you look at the numbers, going from two to 20 and now our new goal is 33 per year. We’ve raised the goal and we think we can hit more than 33 a year by 2020.”

But, not all of their goals are so easily met.

Improving second year retention rates, lowering excess credit hours and having students graduate in four years are Furton’s top three priorities for 2020. And even though the school has seen an improvement, the numbers aren’t where he wants them to be. But the school, he said, has created and will continue to create various initiatives and campaigns to improve these numbers.

Another complication the school faces is finding a way to increase their enrollment while increasing their graduation rate at the same time.

Back in 2014, the school had 54,000 enrolled students, presently the school has about 55,000, and Holness and Furton believe the school will be able to reach their 2020 goal of 65,000 students, but not with just face-to-face students.

Enrolled students, Holness said, depend on a number of things, but the state of the economy is always one of them.

FIU’s own enrollment shot up in 2008, and has slowed down now that the unemployment rate is lower, according to Holness, but is still moving at a decent pace compared to other campuses. Besides the economical factor, the university, he said, is also aware that they don’t have the space for 65,000 students.

“You feel it in the parking lot, in the classrooms,” Holness said. “We still have a demand of students, we know we probably can’t physically put them here, so most of our growth is in online/hybrid classes because then students don’t have to come here.”

Back in 2014, 67 percent of students were enrolled in face-to-face classes, with 8 percent enrolled in hybrid courses and 25 percent in online classes.

However, by promoting more online and hybrid courses, the university hopes to change these numbers and increase the amount of online students while decreasing the amount of face-to-face students, according to Holness.

The university is also continuing to promote high school dual-enrollment, Furton said, and wouldn’t be surprised if dual-enrollment is what gets them to that enrollment goal.

The 2020 goal is to have 30 percent of students enrolled in face-to-face classes, 30 percent of students enrolled in hybrid courses and 40 percent of students enrolled in online classes. This would not only let the university meet their goal, but would make it easier for the student body, which is majority commuter, to attend their classes, according to Holness.

But Furton realizes that not everyone prefers online classes. The class format, he said, is a student’s personal choice, which is why one of his goals is to make sure every class is offered both online and in-person.

Research also shows that online students tend to not only have a lower GPA but take longer to graduate, according to Holness, so the university is trying different ways to make “higher-quality” online classes such as encouraging faculty to have virtual office hours and Quality Matters faculty training.

“We’re trying to balance the two, offering online content that people need but offering it in such a way that they can learn because if you just give them the online tools they’re not learning and we’re not helping students,” Holness said.

More information on the 2020 plan can be found at, but Holness and Furton agree that the plan’s ultimate goal, from the retention rates to how much a degree costs students, is to ensure students success.

“Our main goal is when a student walks in the door here, they get the education they want, they get out as quickly as they can and they get a job,” Holness said.


Featured image and graph by Nicole Malanga/PantherNOW. Data for the graph was provided by the Office of the Provost.

About the Author

Michelle Marchante
Michelle Marchante is the 2018-2019 Editor-in-Chief of PantherNOW. Majoring in broadcast journalism, she lives and breathes web, print, radio and TV news 24/7. You can connect with her on Twitter @TweetMichelleM

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