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  • The Griffin

President Stoute is Ready to ‘Reimagine Canisius’

Canisius President Steve Stoute gave his first State of the College address on Tuesday, Oct. 4 in the Montante Cultural Center. His speech started at 3:30 p.m. and lasted about 30 minutes, after which he allowed for questions to be asked by audience members, which was mostly made up of the college’s faculty and staff.

President Stoute’s address covered the external, structural challenges that the college is going to face in the future, as well as internal problems that have remained on the forefront of people’s minds, like the financial state of the college and the future enrollment projections.

“I’ve never been more sure that our future is bright,” Stoute said, leaning into a positive tone throughout the address. He began his presentation discussing societal demographic changes across the country, noting that fewer students are going to college because there are fewer students in general. Slowing of the country’s birth rate, especially during the 2008 recession, is impacting enrollment now and will only slow enrollment in the future.

But Stoute, nonetheless, is hopeful. There were 478 first-year students to enter Canisius this fall, a 23-student increase from last year. There were also 73 transfer students who came to Canisius this fall, the same number as last year. Stoute’s main focus is to get the school’s retention rate up, as it dropped four percentage points from last year and now sits at 78%. For the graduate programs, there were 225 new students this year, a drop of 55 from the year prior.

When showing graphs on annual financial data, Stoute demonstrated that the college’s expenses are still outpacing revenue, and — despite a narrowing gap — are expected to continue this way for the next five years. However, the revenue (from students and other means) are projected to increase significantly in the next five years, despite the anticipated drop in enrollment that colleges around the country will face.

The Griffin asked how revenue was predicted to increase if the college is envisioning a drop in enrollment, but Stoute is confident that Canisius can continue getting its enrollment up, even during these times. He hopes to sustain this projected growth in revenue through other means as well.

“We are focusing on retention initiatives. We need to invest in the Griff Center and other areas that we know yield results with retention,” Stoute said. A focus on non-traditional students as well — such as adult students or international students — will also help grow enrollment.

But tuition increases and their financial benefits are something this administration is considering, Stoute said; “Cutting tuition hasn’t worked for Canisius in the past, so I’m not sure it will work in the future for us. I think we have to moderate our tuition increases, continue supporting financial aid and raise money from donors.” Stoute said, therefore, if the initiatives he wants to take work, the college will only have to make moderate increases in tuition. He assured the audience in his address that keeping Canisius accessible and affordable for everyone was his primary goal.

Meeting students where they are was a large part of his presentation, and he confirmed to The Griffin that doing so is a key part of his current ideals and policy. With the school’s graduate programs as an example, Stoute said that he plans to make those programs more accessible to non-traditional students. “We can’t necessarily add new programs that are full time and in person,” Stoute explained. “Historically, most of our grad students were previously our undergrads, but since we have less of them, we need to attract students who aren’t 22 to 24 years old: we need to attract working grad students or students with families who need the flexibility to take classes in the evening, on the weekend or online.”

President Stoute answered the audience’s questions after his address, confirming many things that Canisius faculty, staff and students have been wondering about. He does not plan to have Canisius merge with any other schools or programs in the near future, but the college name change to “Canisius University” is still in the works and is a likely change that is being discussed among the Board.

Additionally, The Griffin asked President Stoute about the state of multiple buildings on campus, including Demerly Hall and the Health Science building. The sale of Demerly Hall is expected to go through by the end of the calendar year, according to Stoute, and Health Science has been taken off the market due to there being no practical space to hold classes that are traditionally placed there.

As for other infrastructure projects that Stoute is working on, he told The Griffin that he hopes to modernize the spaces the campus already has and rework them in a way in which more students and faculty are interacting with each other. “How do we create organic interactions?” Stoute said. “Those are the moments where things click and creative juices get flowing. We need to create spaces that bring the finance major together with the biology major,” adding, “Most of our faculty is concentrated in the tower. Students who I’ve talked to want to be able to walk by their professor’s offices and stop in and say ‘Hi,’ instead of going out of their way to go to another building to engage with them.”

Overall, Stoute is hopeful and confident in the college and looks towards the future. He says he has enjoyed getting to know students and faculty and wants to continue cultivating those relationships in order to rebuild trust within the institution. Stoute is excited to reimagine Canisius, saying, “We have a once in a generation opportunity to rethink Canisius. We must rise to meet this moment, and I have so much confidence that we can do that.”

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