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Presidential Speeches

Spring 2012 All College Meeting Remarks

Jan. 30, 2012
Maureen Stapleton Theatre


Good afternoon, everyone. I hope that your spring semester is off to a great start! Thanks very much for making time to be here today. As you know, the All College Meeting is an opportunity for the campus community to come together for an update on our shared progress and challenges.

To get started, I'd like to first welcome the college's new employees. In your program, you'll see a listing of individuals hired since our last meeting. As we welcome these new colleagues, let's continue to be supportive during this upcoming semester – by reaching out, offering an introduction or helping hand to ensure their successful transition. As I've said many times, our faculty and staff are the heart of this great college and also an outstanding resource for one another.

Thank you for your extraordinary dedication to the college, and to our students who benefit from your collective talents. I appreciate it and so do our students.

Also in our program, please take a minute to read through the articles highlighting our progress toward Middle States self assessment and also upcoming plans to celebrate the college's 60th anniversary next year.

Friends and colleagues, we are all proud of Hudson Valley's progress, our great accomplishments and our service to our students. Usually I use this platform as an opportunity to reflect on all the great things that you do. Please understand that I am very proud of the dedication and innovation that you demonstrate every day. I would much rather spend my time today praising your outstanding effort. Unfortunately, today's economic and fiscal environment is very serious and this speech is a call to action to our college community to focus squarely on efforts to resolve this situation.

I've used this gathering over the past three years to talk with you openly and honestly about an array of threats facing the college that created our "new reality" at Hudson Valley.

In 2009, I reported that proposed cuts to our base state aid could be extremely detrimental and that all-time low interest rates were negatively affecting the college's investments.

By 2010, I shared with you that our base state aid was cut by 20percent and that the outlook for future state aid was not at all positive. I reported that per-student funding from the state reached the level it was in 1999.

The "one-third, one-third, one-third" model for funding community colleges with the state, the local share and the students each picking up an equal portion of the college's budget was no longer viable and, at the time, student tuition and fees funded nearly half of the college's total budget.

We started to cut budgets campus-wide, and changed hiring practices, among other strategies. I asked everyone to seek out ways to make our institution more effective and efficient. Some of you came forward with helpful suggestions, and I thank you for that.

Last year, I noted that the college was facing major obstacles and pressures from various sources.

A 21 percent reduction in state funding cut our budget by $5.6 million.

We have received stagnant funding from Rensselaer County for more than a decade. Our per FTE student funding from Rensselaer County has dropped 22 percent in the last ten years.

County governments began to challenge the chargeback formula that reimburses us for students attending from outside Rensselaer County. From Saratoga to Albany, counties started seeing community college chargebacks as an "unfunded mandate," particularly in Albany County, from where we draw the majority of our students. In fact, last month I met with the incoming County Executive who indicated that he plans to significantly reduce Albany County's commitment to Hudson Valley.

Schenectady County Community College dropped their chargeback rate from $1450 per FTE to $0, and expanded into our service area. Also, there is an increase in the amount of competition from other regional colleges. At the same time, we face a projected decline of 750 Capital Region high school graduates in the next ten years.

SUNY Central began to reduce staff, consolidate leadership, challenge colleges to find greater efficiencies, and called for the regional consolidation of many administrative services such as payroll, purchasing and information technology, as a cost-saving measure.

At our college, we instituted across the board budget cuts in non-personnel areas and implemented a variety of other cost saving and revenue generating measures.

During this same period, many of our peer colleges eliminated course sections and elective options, increased class sizes and cut staff and faculty positions. Unlike these other schools, we have not yet cut academic programs and essential services to students.

The fact that we increased enrollment during 2009 and 2010 kept us from having to make the same Draconian cuts that other colleges have made. However, our enrollment for fall 2011 dropped by 3.5 percent and enrollment for this Spring has dropped by approximately 4.5 percent.

Early projections show that our headcount for fall of 2012 will be down by at least two percent if we don't act, and act assertively. At our last gathering in the fall, I showed you our projected enrollment trends for the next five years and indicated that our enrollment will continue to drop if we stay with the status quo.

The college utilized all of its reserves to balance this year's budget to cover this drop in enrollment. And, we will be redirecting $3.5 million from the retirement benefits account in order to balance next year's budget.

As you know, the Governor's Budget put forth just two weeks ago offers no additional funding for community colleges.

So, in other words, given the enrollment projections and the dismal fiscal outlook, WE HAVE NO MORE FLEXIBILITY. WE MUST TAKE ASSERTIVE ACTION. WE DON'T HAVE A CHOICE.

None of us expected the recession to drag on this long, so consequently, we must aggressively and innovatively institute actions to become more efficient and increase enrollment and retention of students.

The SOLUTIONS remain within our own ingenuity, determination and hard work. The solution is for us ALL to work diligently to increase enrollment. That means increasing retention, enrolling new students, improving customer service and innovation from every person on this campus. Beginning today, we must work together with a new sense of urgency to meet our fiscal and enrollment goals.

Because of the turnaround in enrollment, we are making the necessary budget cuts and implementing plans that will reduce costs, as well as, increase revenue. The following is an outline of recent actions. And, as I did in our last meeting, I welcome your ideas e-mailed to suggestions@hvcc.edu.

1. Enrollment caps in all sections will be in accord with the respective Collective Bargaining Agreements, regardless of modality. You have done a great job increasing Distance Learning opportunities, and we must continue to grow in our online offerings, which also involves a reexamination of enrollment caps.

2. All programs will be accountable for initiating practices that will generate a minimum of 60 percent yield of accepted to enrolled students. Additionally, Department Chairs will initiate strategies to visit our 25 feeder high schools and request faculty to volunteer for such activities. At this point, our applications are up, yet the yield of enrolled students from the top 25 feeder high schools is 50 percent; we can, and we will, do better.

3. The Academic Master Schedule must be more efficient, thereby reflecting actual enrollment patterns. Each department must have reserved sections ready to address any increase in enrollment or conversely consolidate sections where applicable. Simply put, sections should not be opened until existing sections are filled, regardless of modality, department, or area of study. With this in mind, I am charging the deans to conduct a full and thorough review of the academic schedule each semester and to work with their chairs to make the appropriate changes.

4. All faculty should be using the Early Warning System as a retention tool. The most recent review of data of the Early Warning System usage reveals that only 16 percent of our faculty are availing themselves to this opportunity to communicate with their students. The Early Warning System is being amended for ease of use, and more importantly, it can be used at any time during the semester. This is a crucial retention tool. It is my expectation is that this system will be utilized by all faculty inclusive of adjuncts.

5. As I previously mentioned, distance learning is a vibrant area for growth. New sections should be added in areas of high demand and specialized interest with faculty readily available to teach. This means that DCs will build a shelf of adjuncts who can readily teach online, and DCs will renew efforts for full-time faculty to receive online training. Not only should International markets be explored, but we must begin to think creatively and explore new configurations and new populations for online learning. We must continue to create environments that are friendly for online students, from application to advisement and registration.

6. Early College High School and the College in the High School programs are significant areas of growth. Toward that end, I am continuing to meet with area superintendents to explore new areas for partnership. We will aggressively pursue and expand these collaborative initiatives. I expect everyone's cooperation and support in this area. For example, if a high school requests that we offer a specific course, we must be prepared to offer that course, or someone else will! Additionally, the Center for Advanced Studies, which partners with four-year institutions to house their baccalaureate programs here on campus, is another area of focus for potential growth.

7. It is important that you remember that personnel costs make up 78percent of our budget, and you will notice that I have not mentioned our current collective bargaining agreements. We are still committed to honoring those agreements. I have, however, diverted my salary increase for this year and my salary increase for next year into a restricted account at the Foundation, and 100percentof these funds will be re-directed back into the college budget. If anyone would like to join me, you may contact the Foundation to make those arrangements.

While there is much to be done, I know that we have already initiated best practices and strategies to increase retention and enrollment. We need to continue to align our marketing strategies with enrollment growth, and, each in our own way, to coordinate successful student outreach, enrollment and retention efforts.

The School of Business, as one example, has developed a model that seems to work well for them. With a centralized student advisement center and a high volume of personal outreach and individual attention during the enrollment process, their enrollment is growing. In addition, they've made a conscious effort to grow online enrollment and develop recruitment and advisement strategies for online learners.

Our largest department, Individual Studies, will begin to offer regular "Advisement Days" to connect testing with advisement immediately. Students will attend special presentations and receive extra support and attention in the enrollment process. I appreciate the work of the special committee tasked for this recommendation and the INS advisors who are making this possible.

How can other departments and areas start to make similar plans or connections?

In another retention effort, the Nursing department's one week summer Boot Camp was designed to ease the transition of students from Nursing 2 to Nursing 3. In the first year, it was found to be highly effective and was repeated in summer 2011. As a result, student retention in the 2009-11 nursing cohort improved by 51 percent.

Here's another example of a department stepping forward to increase enrollment. The Dental Hygiene department found that a number of students accepted into the Dental Assisting Certificate program did not follow through and enroll for the fall 2011 semester. To encourage students to commit, the department scheduled personal meetings with Dental Assisting faculty for all accepted students once the college's required $50 deposit was paid in an effort to answer questions, discuss clinical site placement, and describe the online learning environment.

Whether in a small or large department, the college benefits greatly when students make connections with the faculty and staff. One of the best opportunities we have to facilitate this connection is through the student's meeting with an academic advisor. After careful analysis of the performance and retention of our student population, we will be piloting new placement test waiver criteria which should help more students make this connection earlier in the enrollment cycle.

And, we also need to attract more high achieving students. We have the faculty, programs, services and facilities to compete with colleges considered to be more selective.

This past December, our Honors Scholarship Day recruited some of the brightest students in the region to our campus to talk with faculty and staff, and to compete for scholarships into our Honors track programs. We have a proven track record of success in transfer and job placement, and we represent an outstanding value for these students. With all that we offer consider this: Of the 2,200 full-time students in the fall of 2010, only 104 had high school averages of 90 or higher.

The Enrollment Management Committee has several pages of successful initiatives listed on its website. From streamlining the online enrollment process to marketing to veterans, you have a forum to get involved and share your ideas. Many ideas were carried out through the college's Enrollment Initiative Fund and individual department efforts. I encourage you to review them and offer your feedback at monthly Enrollment Forums.

Additionally, I will be convening the President's Cabinet for the sole purpose of identifying strategies and initiatives to impact student retention and enrollment.

We need all of us, the Enrollment Management Committee, Department Chairs, Academic Senate, and all of the bargaining units to take a leadership role in addressing our challenges. We need innovative ideas from all corners of the campus. We need a renewed dedication to the outstanding customer service our front line staff takes pride in.

Hudson Valley Community College has always been a proud and strong organization. And as we approach our 60th year, we will look back on six decades of achievement and student success.

But we also need to look forward with focus, intensity and dedication for this is a challenging time in the college's history. I can tell you that if we do not reverse the enrollment trend, we unfortunately will be forced to take significant actions to balance the budget up to and including elimination of some essential services to students, discontinuance of academic programs, reorganization and consolidation of academic and administrative units, and a reduction of the full-time to adjunct faculty ratio. In other words, we may be forced to make significant personnel cuts. None of us want that to happen and it will take ALL of us to rise up and take on our challenges.

Current enrollment projections for fall 2012 have the college's matriculated new students declining by 2.15 percent and the matriculated returning students declining by 3.19 percent. We MUST turn around the decline in enrollment the college has experienced this year and is projected to have next year.

To that end, for fall 2012 the college is setting an enrollment goal of 4,009 in matriculated new students, an increase of 150 from this year, and a goal of 6,405 in matriculated returning students, an increase of 100 from this year. We only need an additional 250 students over the number we enrolled in fall 2011 to meet these targets. As you can see from the table on the screen, this would bring our target total enrollment for fall 2012 to 14,200, an increase of 3.3 percent. We can do this. We can all work together to make this happen.

These goals are within reach and, in fact, must be achieved for us to continue without major cuts. I have every confidence in the professionalism and dedication of every person on this campus and it will take just that for us to reach our goal.

Every inquiry is a chance for us to help a student. Every little step that you take on their behalf benefits the whole process. Let me give you two simple examples:

First, why do we tell a student on the phone that they must come into the college to see a secretary, so that she can make an appointment to come back to meet with an advisor? Second, if a faculty member cannot make it for her class, is it really that difficult to email the students beforehand to let them know? Or at least contact the department chair to have someone meet the students? My only point is that ALL of us can do better and we must. Every student that we recruit and every student that we retain allows us to maintain that margin of excellence.

I'd like to close with a story about one student and one solution, but the story represents a mindset we need to embrace.

A little flexibility and creativity can go a long way to help a student get their start here at Hudson Valley. We exist for students like Maurissa Jenkins. A few years back she was living in California where her husband had just been stationed with the military. Maurissa went to work right after high school, but mentioned to an aunt, who lives in this area, that the time had come for her to pursue her college education. Based on her aunt's recommendation, she enrolled as an online student in the Health Information Management and Technology program.

In time, she and her husband relocated to Virginia but Maurissa continued her online studies, not realizing that the last few of her courses were not available online. She immediately called one of her instructors, Barbara Lamarche, who with the assistance of Sue Gallagher and Bonnie Farrell in Distance Learning, were able to come up with a smart, simple, technology-based solution.

This semester, Maurissa is utilizing videoconferencing technologies to continue all of her work online. Barbara has also used technologies like SKYPE to facilitate advisement sessions with Maurissa. With the help of some dedicated faculty and staff, Maurissa is seamlessly continuing her education through online learning at Hudson Valley.

That's one solution for one student, but as I said it represents a mindset EVERY ONE OF US need to embrace.

Reversing this downward enrollment trend in the face of our current economic and demographic conditions will not be easy, but I call upon you - the faculty and staff of this remarkable institution - to be part of the solution. Whether you teach or serve our student body in another way, we need you now more than ever. Students are why we exist and doing everything possible to help them achieve their dreams is our goal.

Hudson Valley is a great institution because of YOUR dedication, YOUR talents, YOUR hard work, and YOUR commitment to serving our students. If you are willing to do everything in your power to meet this challenge head on, please stand?

TOGETHER we can do this!

I am proud of the great work you do and I KNOW we will succeed.

Thank you, and I hope you have a great semester.