Topics: Administrative, Board of Trustees

October 10, 2014

The Ball State University Board of Trustees today approved an enhanced health care plan for 2015 that complies with new insurance laws and industry standards, while maintaining high standards of coverage.

The changes, which trustees reviewed during their July meeting, include an additional voluntary benefit that provides short-term disability coverage, enhanced voluntary life insurance, new wellness incentives, new tools from Anthem to help manage health care costs and a free 24/7 nurse line.

While the university has been able to keep insurance premium increases to a minimum over the past decade, these changes have resulted in cost increases from $9 to $61 per month, depending on an employee’s choice of plan. The changes are effective Jan. 1, 2015. Campuswide communications will begin the week of Oct. 20. Open enrollment begins Nov. 3 and ends Nov. 21.

Also today, the board endorsed the academic master plan. Specific major initiatives include the consolidation of health-related assets into a College of Health Sciences and Professions to leverage opportunities for collaboration among disciplines, serve as a catalyst for external research funding and further cement the reputation of the university in this important and growing area.

The plan also would emphasize STEM offerings in the College of Applied Science and Technology, creating a home for future STEM offerings, reflecting the state’s focus on disciplines in science, technology, engineering and math. It also suggests the creation of a department of design within the College of Architecture and Planning, leveraging existing strengths and providing a home for new and existing design offerings.

Additionally, the plan would provide for the development of a faculty academy to support new junior faculty members and to encourage educational innovation among faculty. The plan also would support intensive student advising to back student success, specifically retention and on-time graduation.

The academic affairs subcommittee also received an update on enrollment. This year's entering freshman class was the strongest in Ball State's history. Tom Taylor, vice president for enrollment, marketing and communications, reported that average SAT scores rose 22 points this year; over the past two falls, scores have risen 44 points. The average high school grade point average of this year's class was 3.45, and more than 72 percent had pursued an academic honors diploma while in high school.

At the same time, diversity reached a new high: 16.9 percent of freshmen came from underrepresented populations. The majority of the class – 84.5 percent – hail from across Indiana, and more than 50 percent entered with advanced standing through AP, IB and dual credit achievements. The impact of Ball State's focus on bright, talented students is seen in improvements in both retention and four-year graduation rates. The freshman retention rate increased to 81.7 percent, exceeding the university's strategic plan goal of 80 percent. The four-year graduation rate improved to 44.5 percent.

"Ball State's consistent focus on quality – the quality of our students, the quality of our faculty, the quality of our support services – is reflected in these measures of student success," said Kay Bales, vice president for student affairs.

As part of its continued evolution, the board also approved an amendment to the Audit and Compliance Committee's charge.

In other business, trustees approved the naming of the Cindy and Randy Pond Star Theater and the First Merchants Ballpark Complex.

The new Cindy and Randy Pond Star Theater, the main attraction inside the Charles W. Brown Planetarium, will be named for the Ponds, who have been longtime staunch supporters of the university. State-of-the-art technology transforms the 52-foot theater dome into a simulation of the night sky as seen from Earth and from space. For example, the audience can “fly” through Saturn's rings, land on Mars or travel to distant stars and galaxies.

Phase 1 already has been completed at the First Merchants Ballpark Complex, a signature facility at one of the busiest corners in Muncie – Bethel and Tillotson avenues. Finished baseball projects include new artificial turf in the infield and outfield, new dugouts for both home and visiting teams, new bullpens for home and visiting teams, and a new perimeter fence. The softball area sports new artificial turf in the outfield and new bullpen surfaces for home and visiting teams. The ballpark improvements are part of the Cardinal Commitment campaign. "By approving these projects, the board underscores the importance of philanthropy to the university," said Hudson Akin, vice president for university advancement. "We are grateful to the Ponds and First Merchants for investing in greatly enhanced athletic and educational experiences for students and citizens alike."