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Harris-Stowe commits to boosting enrollment and STEM classes to stay in good standing

Harris Stowe State University’s administration building on Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2022, in St. Louis, Mo. The historically Black college and university is one among 12 who received bomb threats on Tuesday.
Brian Munoz
St. Louis Public Radio
Harris-Stowe State University has a five-year strategic plan to better prepare students for careers in science and technology, increase graduation rates and secure the university’s accreditation.

Harris-Stowe State University plans to increase student enrollment, retention and graduation rates and boost its science, technology, engineering and math curriculum over the next five years.

To achieve its goals, university officials will prioritize student achievement and performance, hire more faculty, implement student assessment and evaluation databases and increase fundraising efforts.

This strategic plan comes two months after the Higher Learning Commission put the university on notice that it could be at risk for losing its accreditation. The commission asked the university to clarify its metrics for student academic outcomes and graduation rates. It also noted a delayed 2021 financial audit.

The commission’s notice provided the university with a blueprint of how to make Harris-Stowe successful, university President LaTonia Collins Smith said.

“Our strategic plan is [to] evaluate, innovate and elevate, and we're building a culture of success here at Harris-Stowe,” Collins Smith said. “So, we will evaluate everything that we do, which is in alignment with what HLC indicated that we need to do more of as we look at our assessment.”

Collins Smith said the strategic plan will help the university compete with other higher education institutions for students and funding.

“In order to compete in this market, you have to be innovative,” she said. “So, we are really looking at ways in which we will introduce innovation across our academic programs, but also in our extracurricular activities outside of the program.”

The historically Black university is one of a few educational institutions in the St. Louis region working with the National Geospatial Agency to create programming that will introduce its Black students to the intelligence community.

To continue its commitment to STEM, Harris-Stowe is conducting a nationwide search for its first dean of STEM. This semester, the university plans to add the College of STEM, its fourth college.

“Looking at data is what drove our decision to go from three colleges to four. When you look at our largest degree-producing program right now is biology,” Collins Smith said. “It was time. We have the capacity and we have enough students in that space, where we can actually create a true college of STEM.”

She hopes the new college will encourage students to add STEM classes to their courseloads.

Focusing on the five-year plan priorities will help the university boost its overall enrollment by 50% and its full-time freshman retention rate by about 10%, according to the plan. Officials also aim to boost the university’s career-placement or graduate school placement rates to 85%.

Collins Smith said university officials intentionally crafted a plan that would help the school take accountability and responsibility to achieve every goal.

“This [the strategic plan] is an active, living, breathing document and this is our commitment to our students to our campus community, and to all that support Harris Stowe, both physically and financially,” she said.

Andrea covers race, identity & culture at St. Louis Public Radio.