Increasing awareness

Faculty should be aware of the trends that impact the stability of their Unit and the University.

Grand Valley has grown in the number of students, faculty, staff and size of its campuses for most of its existence.  While the future is always uncertain, most informed observers believe that the student body will no longer grow at the same rate because the number of graduating high school students in Michigan is declining (See University Budget).  Michigan public universities are competing against each other for a shrinking pool of available students.  In fact, some Michigan public universities have seen a decline in enrollment (see Michigan Peers).  Grand Valley has been successful in recruiting incoming freshman and transfer students and. is focused on keeping the retention rates of existing students high.  It is critical that the university maintain or enhance our reputation for excellence in order to maintain the size of our student body. 

Given that the student body is unlikely to increase, the number of faculty is also expected to remain approximately the same.  This means that most new positions in new or growing programs will be re-allocations of faculty from vacated positions (retirements or other voluntary departures).  The reality is that there are more units requesting new positions as a result of growth in the major or needed expertise than there are positions being vacated in units that are contracting (For example see the Distribution of Faculty & Credit Hour Production by College).

Use your faculty log-in to view information on your unit in an easy to use format at:

Details by program are available on the Institution Analysis webpage at:

A wide array of information is available on the Institution Analysis webpage at:

Faculty should have a voice in financial decisions

The only way to allocate money to new and growing programs without new revenues is to find savings elsewhere.  Faculty need to play a role in tackling the challenges that face the university.  The FSBC will continue to facilitate decision making at the unit level to address the following three overarching goals:

  • Enhance or maintain the quality of instruction,
  • Increase the efficiency of academic delivery, and
  • Minimize the cost of education for students. 

In general, instructional costs of a unit can be attributed to three main drivers:

  • the number of courses offered,
  • the average class size, and
  • the number of faculty. 


We, as faculty, recognize the importance of having tenure-track faculty lead small class discussions to facilitate rich learning environments.  It would be very destructive simply to raise course sizes and limit the number of tenure-track faculty.  Many unit-level goals can be reached through thoughtful scheduling that minimizes the number of low-enrolled sections (for example, by consolidating unnecessary sections and offering specialty courses every other year) and assures all course sections have healthy enrollments (generally 80-95% of capacity is a reasonable goal).  In some cases, curricular reform may be necessary to ensure a broad and flexible array of course offerings that avoid bottlenecks and low-enrolled sections. 

Information associated with Smart Growth can be of great assistance to faculty as they address these issues, especially those responsible for course scheduling.  Smart Growth focuses on the following four basic resources:

  1.  Classrooms (building optimal class schedules),
  2.  Instructors (matching section offerings with student demand),
  3.  Curriculum (helping students progress to degree completion), and
  4.  Pedagogy (adopting models that supply quality instruction at the required scale).  

Principles of Smart Growth informed FSBC’s creation of the Unit Stability Report.   Research from the economic advisory board provides three important lessons:

  1. Financial metrics are meant to inform university decisions, not dictate them;
  2. Controversies about quality indicators are no reason to ignore metrics; and
  3. Significant gains in financial stability can be achieved without sacrificing quality.

Information on Smart Growth is available to all faculty on the the Provost Office’s website at  Of particular note is a list of possible solutions in the Smart Growth Booklet on pages xx and xxi (in a section entitled “Forty Approaches to Maximizing Instructional Productivity”).

Page last modified May 9, 2023