By Jordan Muck
The Rev. Michael Garanzini, S.J., Loyola University Chicago’s president, gave his annual Statue of the University address Monday night at the school’s Lake Shore Campus.
The speech focused on three main areas, each of which explained upcoming developments and improvements to the Loyola community.
Garanzini’s first priority is to improve student retention rate, as the university has seen decreasing numbers for several years. He attributes this to the fact the university tends to accept people who are first-generation college students who often have trouble paying tuition.
The university is looking to increase its on-campus student employment program, making sure to take full advantage of the federal work-study money available.
“It’s a retention tool as well, because we find that students who work on campus end up bonding to the institution in a lot more ways than students that don’t,” Garanzini said.
There is also talk of increasing the number of faculty members, especially in the College of Arts and Sciences. The university believes that they can increase the retention rate by increasing the number of full-time faculty members that first year students are in contact with. According to a university statistic. First year student retention is in the 90th percentile if are taught by five full-time faculty members.
Garanzini boasted the continuation of growth for the athletics programs, the John Felice Rome Center, the School of Business Administration, the Niehoff Nursing School, as well as a new Simulation Center for nurses and doctor at the university’s Maywood campus.
Garanizni said Loyola is currently still “putting money in what I like to call infrastructure, to keep us competitive, if we stopped growing and planning and progressing, were going backwards. We either stay in this mode or we fall behind.”
Perhaps the biggest announcement made during the address was the upcoming merger of Loyola University Health Systems and Trinity Health.
Trinity Health, based in Novi, Mich., is the fourth largest Catholic health system in the United States with operating revenue of more than $7.1 billion and 48,000 employees, according to a LUHS News Release.
Garanzini said, “The Board decided that we should dearch for strategies to serve us best in the long run. We wanted to work with Catholics, but potential partners in Chicago have more money problems than we could handle.”
The merger will create Trinity Health’s first facilities in Illinois.
The multimillion dollar deal outlines a plan that will allow Trinity Health to assume of LUHS’ liabilities, including their long term debt of $341 million, medical malpractice bill of $158 million, and pension and post retirement costs of $133 million.
LUHS will also collect an annual sum of $22.5 million in support for the Strich School of Medicine, which is subject to change in the coming year due to increased cost of living or cost of hospital operations.
LUHS and Trinity Health will also split the cost for $150 million in research work, as well as promoting a global education experience for nursing and medical student.
A change of ownership agreement will be signed March 31st, and the deal is scheduled for completion on July 1st of this year.
The address also briefly outlined the university’s plans to expand residence life on the west and south ends of campus, including a “freshman village,” and housing for upperclassmen. The Loyola CTA stop will be completely refurbished, with the entrance moving out onto the street and a building complex taking up the space left behind the ‘L’ tracks.
“We will never feel safe until we open this area up,” said Garanzini about the plans to rebuild.
Following the speech, the audience kept quiet as Garanzini asked for questions, which he took as a sign of a “satisfied crowd.”
Stephanie Romeo, a junior Elementary Education major and current chair of the Loyola United Student Government Association’s academic affairs committee, said, “I was actually surprised to see the partnership with Trinity. I think it will be good for Loyola’s future—it will be great to keep the Catholic identity throughout the university.”
Paula DeVoto, Program Coordinator for the John Felice Rome Center said, “I think that no questions means people are pleased. Just like [Fr. Garanzini] said, we are progressing and planning for the future. Its reassuring that we can still manage to do so in this economy.”
However, not everyone was happy about the address. E. Wilson, a student of the Graduate School of Social Work, said, “My question is where are the scholarships? I didn’t say anything tonight, but I will definitely be at my campus tomorrow ready to speak up.”
Garanzini will be giving the State of the University address again Tuesday at 4 p.m. The speech will take place on the Water Tower Campus in Lewis Towers, and will be streamed live on the Inside Loyola news site. The event will also be streamed onto a digital screen in the Centennial Forum Student Union.
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