I want to begin my final letter by simply thanking you for your work every day to ensure our students are successful. I know every significant accomplishment of our university is possible because of your commitment to our students as they work to graduate and achieve their dreams.
The W has much to celebrate. Our students graduate in record numbers, enrollment remains steady, and university finances, while lean, are strong. New academic programs have been introduced, and many existing programs have been refocused to meet the needs of our students. These accomplishments provide a sound foundation for the future.
Student life is vibrant, the performing and visual arts are thriving, outstanding teaching occurs across the university, exciting undergraduate research happens in every academic program, and the reintroduction of intercollegiate athletics will bring nearly 200 traditional-age students from across the country to the university this fall.
The best news I've been able to share during my time here is the record number of graduates each year. Since 2012 through May commencement 2018, the university has awarded about 5,300 degrees. Today nearly 35 of every 100 full-time students enrolled earn a degree each academic year. When you consider 30% of The W's enrollment is over the age of 25, 80% of our students work, and nearly half are eligible for Pell grants, this is a remarkable achievement as our students balance the demands of their lives with their academic work.
In recent years our annual enrollment has held steady. We know these are challenging times since the number of traditional-age students is declining simply because of lower birth rates, while the competition for new student recruitment increases each year. Achieving stable enrollment is cause for celebration.
The financial stability of the university is important to our success. The pace of change in higher education continues to increase, and managing through today's opportunities requires a strong financial position. Tuition is now the largest source of university revenue, which means annual fluctuations in enrollment immediately impact the university's revenue and expense budget.
Concern about the financial sustainability of Mississippi's public universities led the Board of Trustees two years ago to establish clear financial health measures for each university. The W performs well against these quantitative financial measures, but this requires constant attention to revenue and spending.
We have challenges and, of course, we always will. Higher education is undergoing a rapid evolution driven by the expectations of our students, the demands of a changing economy, the needs of employers, and the accelerating application of technology affecting every job in all fields.
Yet, now is a wonderful time to be a liberal arts institution! The timeless lessons of a quality liberal arts education remain relevant and in demand today. I am confident society and the economy will increasingly demand citizens who are able to think critically, work together in teams, demonstrate proficiency in written and oral communications, and solve complex problems. The personal growth and knowledge resulting from a quality liberal arts education will become even more necessary as technology radically alters how we live, work, and play.
It seems change has been a continuing theme of my presidency. The W is much different today than it was in the fall of 2011 when I interviewed for this job and will be different five years from now. Paraphrasing Jim Barksdale one last time, "everyone is in favor of progress until they realize it requires them to change." Today the majority of our students are enrolled in a health-related major, and half of the semester credit hours are delivered in either a hybrid or online mode of delivery.
Enrollment is growing in our high demand fields, as well as within academic programs able to meet the educational needs of today's students through hybrid, online, and low-residency means of education delivery. It's encouraging to see these successful and promising practices being replicated in every academic college, and our success in online delivery, teaching adults, and reaching traditional age students bodes well for the future.
Before I close I want to provide you with the final update on the Kincannon Hall incident occurring on November 28, 2017. As president, when it comes to campus safety, the buck stops with me. I have always taken that responsibility seriously, and I will until my time here is done. I wanted to provide you with a final update, most of which has been made available over the past few months, just not in a comprehensive summary.
I want to thank the Divisions of Finance and Administration and Student Affairs for their unyielding attention to improving processes and procedures, as well as moving swiftly to design and put in motion the contracts necessary to complete the permanent building improvements.
You can find the Kincannon Hall final update at this link http://www.muw.edu/images/admin/admin/facilities/Kincannon-Hall-Update-5-11-2018.pdf.
I am grateful to have had the opportunity to be your colleague, and serving this university has been the highlight of my career. I will always cherish seeing first-hand how our university changes lives, and I hold dear the friendships I have formed over these past seven years. I will continue to celebrate your successes!
I am very optimistic about the future of our university. The W is fortunate to have outstanding students, a terrific faculty, a caring staff, and strong support from our alumni and friends. These are key ingredients for achieving the dreams of our students and for our university.
While I am pleased with progress during my tenure as president, I know that there is much more to be done. I have confidence in you and our university, so I expect you to continue to raise the bar higher and higher. It's exciting to think of what the future holds and what you can accomplish. You can count on me to be the first to celebrate your successes!
We are proud of and celebrate the storied history of our great university, yet we know our history alone does not guarantee our future. If we remain unwavering in our commitment to our founding values and principles, then The W's future will certainly be "blessed with light."