DePaul University Newsline > Sections > Campus and Community > Dr. Esteban highlights campus perseverance and the year ahead at 2020 State of the University Address

Dr. Esteban highlights campus perseverance and the year ahead at 2020 State of the University Address

State of the University
(DePaul University/Jeff Carrion)

Nearly 700 faculty and staff members joined the 2020 virtual State of the University Address yesterday, Oct. 22, to hear directly from DePaul President A. Gabriel Esteban about university operations and planning for the year ahead. Following the presentation, members of the president's cabinet joined the question and answer session.

A recording of the webinar will be shared with faculty and staff in Newsline as soon as it is available. The following summary captures key topics addressed throughout the event.

Power in perseverance

Dr. Esteban started by recognizing faculty and staff for their determination, flexibility and ability to come together to overcome 2020's hurdles.

“Thanks to your incredible efforts these last few months, we have started off the academic year very strong," he said. “Compared to where we thought would be right now, this fall is remarkable. That's because of you."

He noted the efforts of the Office of Admissions, which saw record attendance for virtual visit days. Participation in the First Year Academic Success Program also increased by 70 percent during the summer, with more than 220 students successfully completing math or writing prerequisites.

“We also had our second-highest fundraising year in university history," he noted. In the 2019-20 academic year, DePaul raised more than $60 million.

Enrollment outlook

Dr. Esteban reported DePaul enrolled its largest freshman class in university history this fall. This class includes 49% students of color, 34% first-generation students, 32% Pell-eligible and 32% students from out-of-state. More information about this class is available in the Newsline fall 2020 Census article.

Total enrollment for fall 2020 is 21,922, approximately 1% lower than fall 2019.

“Our enrollment decline has slowed significantly, but enrollment is still slightly down," he said. “While fall enrollment is something to celebrate, we are not out of the woods yet. Financially, we still face challenges."

Budget and operations update

Dr. Esteban recapped the financial measures the university implemented prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. These included reducing departmental costs, temporarily reducing the 403(b) match program, forgoing pay increases this fiscal year and temporarily reducing executive suite salaries.

“We expected a decline in net tuition, but because of our performance this fall, the decline will be less than previously expected," Dr. Esteban said. “Through everyone's sacrifices this year, we hope to avoid more serious measures."

During the Q and A portion of the event, Jeff Bethke, executive vice president, reiterated this point.

“We do not think we'll have to make further adjustments to current financial plans. Reductions are off the table for now," he said. “We are always concerned about next fiscal year, and our way of addressing that is deliberately changing the financial planning timing from fall to spring, so that we have a better outlook of the impact of the pandemic. But there are no active plans for more budget cuts this fiscal year."

Key initiatives

Dr. Esteban noted a number of ongoing initiatives occurring at the university, including a review of DePaul's mission statement and continuing antiracism efforts.

“We also plan to launch a Bachelor's in nursing program, and pending accreditation approval, a speech pathology program in fall 2021," he said.

Dr. Esteban also stated planned programs in occupational therapy, as well as civil and environmental engineering, are set to debut in the College of Science and Health in the coming years.

In addition to academic programs, Dr. Esteban shared information about the university's new Future Forward program to support freshman success, as well as an expanded EDGE program designed for sophomores.

DePaul recently launched the State Scholar Plus scholarship program for qualifying high school graduates who are entering college for the first time in fall 2021. The program provides qualified students up to $100,000 in scholarship funds over four consecutive years of undergraduate studies.

Dr. Esteban also shared an update on the university's recently launched Now We Must campaign.

“This campaign is designed for our students in response to increased needs due to the pandemic," he said. “The goal is to raise $60 million this fiscal year, and I am proud to say our donors have stepped up."

Looking ahead

During the Q and A portion of the event, members of cabinet addressed questions on a range of topics, including the spring quarter.

“We are currently planning for the spring quarter," said Salma Ghanem, interim provost. “Based on the way this pandemic is panning out, we expect to still be mostly online. We might be able to increase our on-campus presence for that quarter."

Bethke answered a question about continuing remote work in the future.

“We've learned a lot in the last seven months," he said. “There likely will be a longer term role for remote work in some fashion at the university. Right now we are working with HR to get a handle on what works well for people and the organization."

Throughout the address, Dr. Esteban thanked faculty and staff for their efforts and dedication to students.

“These are very challenging times. I know everyone is working hard and cares about the DePaul community. We will get through this pandemic, but [it's impact] won't be done for two or three years down the road," he said. “We have to look at this as a marathon, not a sprint. I believe if we work together, we will get this done."​