University falls short of enrollment mark

Enrollment for undergraduate students did not meet expectations for the first time in 19 years, President George E. Martin said during his fall meeting Oct. 10. Just two years ago, the class of 2019 was the largest freshman class in recent history.

“As I said to the Board of Trustees, I have assured the people working in admissions who have never had a disappointment like this,” Martin said. “It’s something we recognize and need to deal with and we’ll take steps to make a correction on it.”

Recruitment and retention are challenges Martin said the university faces this year, along with continuing construction on The Pavilions beyond its anticipated debut in the fall. Since that announcement, Martin said that 11 students opted out of their housing contracts.

Martin said there are “many reasons” for The Pavilions not being completed on time, but that it can be largely attributed to labor shortages that resulted from immigration issues in Texas, a reference to SB 4.

Provisions of the “sanctuary cities” bill were blocked by U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia shortly before its enactment on Sept. 1. Nevertheless, a controversial portion of the bill that allowed police officers to ask detainees about their immigration status still went into effect. 

Still, another residential and commercial space is already being planned, as the university will purchase the El Gallo property in early November.

“As he [Martin] said in the meeting, this property is intended to be a revenue stream in the future,” Director of Communications Mischelle Diaz said.

The restaurant closed in January after 60 years in business due to skyrocketing property taxes, other bills and an increase in operating costs. Maria and Abraham Kennedy first opened the restaurant and passed ownership to their son Abel.

In addition to the future residence facility, students will have access to an upgraded Recreation and Convocation Center and more academic programs to choose from in the years to come.

“Our wellness and fitness activity centers are really embarrassing when you look at our competitors,” Martin said after announcing a renovation to the RCC. “So we’re going to withstand that and create first grade facilities.”

The university also plans to expand current graduate programs to an online medium. Undergraduate programs, however, may expand with Martin mentioning health-related programs as a possible target. “I think we may have reached the point where we really can’t recruit within the current context of the array of programs we provide,” Martin said. “We’re going to have to expand our programs moving forward.”

Other challenges included changes in athletic conferences that resulted in St. Edward’s teams not being invited as well as the devastating impact of Hurricane Harvey.

“Hurricane Harvey had a depressing effect on enrollment and retention,” said Martin.

Following months of these challenges, President Martin will deliver a balanced budget to the Board of Trustees in May.