Former CCAC President Alex Johnson delivered this address to the college community at Fall 2012 All College Day on August 13, 2012, at CCAC-Allegheny Campus. Also available is a PDF copy of his slide presentation.
First, let me thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules to be part of this event today. I especially want to recognize Dr. Imhoff and her team at CCAC–Allegheny Campus for their efforts in hosting today. Thanks also to Rick Adams, Maureen Stradley and the entire Frieda Shapira Center for Learning for producing All College Day. This morning I would like to briefly share some of the significant achievements at CCAC over the summer as well as give you some indication of major initiatives for the coming year.
I know that you will be introduced later to our new members of the CCAC family, including 18 new faculty members. I need to thank the members of those many search committees for their dedication to this process, and especially to Mary Ann Anderson and Steve Wells for their leadership in these searches. I did want to update you on searches in the college’s senior leadership team.
I am pleased to announce the appointment of Paul Schwarzmiller as the Vice President for Human Resources following a rigorous search. Paul’s second tour with CCAC began in 2008 as a human resources generalist. Along with John Dziak, he is a trustee with the Allegheny County Schools Health Insurance Consortium. He was a member of our Leadership Development Institute’s inaugural class and was chosen for the position because of his demonstrated expertise, fairness and humility.
I also want to announce that Elmer Haymon has retired this summer. He will be recognized for his many years of faithful service to this institution, and the search for a new Allegheny Campus president will be starting soon. Dr. Imhoff has done an exemplary job as interim campus president during Dr. Haymon’s absence and will continue to serve in that role until a permanent selection is made. We are very close to announcing new hires for the vice president for Workforce and the special assistant for Diversity and Inclusion. I will be updating you on those searches as soon as possible.
We have also received several awards and recognitions as an institution. CCAC was one of three community colleges recognized by the Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE) for overall fundraising excellence, thanks to the efforts of our Educational Foundation and Advancement office. In addition, we again had a strong showing in the Community College Week national rankings, first nationally for Nursing and third in Health Professions and Related Clinical Sciences. I would like to recognize Rick Allison for this ongoing leadership as coordinating dean of our Health Careers, and I would like to introduce you to Kathy Mayle, our new dean of Nursing, who comes to us from Duquesne University. Finally, CCAC has been honored with a second Fred Rogers Good Neighbor Award for our work with mentoring programs.
CCAC is also represented at the state and national levels, where we are influencing policy and participating in the broader discussion of community college education. Some of these opportunities include the Governor’s Advisory Commission, the Voluntary Framework of Accountability, the 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges and meetings of Pennsylvania educators with the White House.
On June 29, the CCAC Board of Trustees approved a $109 million operating budget with no tuition or fee increase for the coming year. This budget will restore funding to direct instruction and strategic initiatives, including the 18 faculty hires I mentioned before and deferred maintenance across the college. Thank you for your support that helped to restore our support from Allegheny County for 2012 as well as your continuing cost-containment efforts. These measures, along with the preservation of state support, made this budget possible.
There remain significant challenges to our funding, however. The financial constraints at the state may likely continue, having an impact at the county level. We are also facing a significant enrollment decrease—approximately 9% at the last tally. While it is important to remember that this enrollment still remains above that before the recession, several factors have influenced this decline. The discontinuation of the summer Pell Grant program has affected students, as have personal and academic issues.
Perhaps most notable is a precipitous drop in the local unemployment rate from 8.6% to 6.9%. Historically, our enrollment has followed the unemployment rate as our students leave their education to secure jobs. However, these are often not in jobs that provide family-sustaining wages; continuing their education at CCAC, particularly in technical fields, would in most cases benefit them. With this enrollment decline, which we will continue to track and investigate, we must continue prudent management of our financial resources.
Despite these challenges, we will continue to emphasize budgetary aims and perspectives to stabilize the financial position of the college and ensure our long-term survival and growth. These include preparing CCAC to handle the financial challenges of the coming year, to fund programs and services without depending on reserves and to balance personnel and operating costs. Long-term, we must continue to fund our strategic priorities, especially student success and our facilities, create programs that enrich the job market, and identify and cultivate other funding streams.
With regard to the college’s Integrated Student Success initiatives, we have focused on preparation, progression, retention, completion and professional development, establishing benchmarks for attainment. We have already seen a measure of systemic change, from the “D” policy, eliminating late registration, making SDS-102 mandatory for more students and our math initiatives, including the math cafés. These initiatives have been possible only through faculty leadership, including the faculty development coordinators, the General Education Review Team, the Civic Engagement Ad Hoc Committee, the ATD Team and Math, English and Reading Champions. We need more extensive faculty participation in this effort.
Even though our direction has been clear and our outcomes, though not spectacular, incremental, most recently we experienced some challenges. Most telling of these challenges is a study of the percentage of students who place in developmental education and complete within two years, which dropped by almost four percentage points for the cohort that began in 2010.
To address these challenges, we must move forward. We must make enrollment in developmental education compulsory for those students who place into it. We must provide appropriate support services based on data and promising practices. We must engage students based on their understanding of what engagement means; CCSSE should serve only as a benchmark for our success in this area. Our progress must be weighed against national models such as Complete College America, Completion by Design and Achieving the Dream.
The 21st Century Commission on the Future of Community Colleges, on which I served, presented some sobering statistics. A child born poor in the United States is likely to remain poor. Half of all Americans are living in poverty. Many other countries are outperforming the US, which is ranked 19th for degree attainment. Quite simply, the American Dream is at risk. A highly educated population is fundamental to economic growth and a vibrant democracy, and community colleges have a fundamental role in preparing this population.
But stepping up to this challenge will require dramatic changes to our colleges. We must redesign students’ educational experiences to increase completion rates, improve college readiness and close the American skills gap. We must reinvent institutional roles to meet 21st century employment needs through partnerships with philanthropy, government and the private sector. And we must reset the system to implement policies and practices to promote rigor, transparency and accountability.
In concert with our student success initiatives, facilities that promote educational excellence must be available. Certainly, the K. Leroy Irvis Science Center is the largest project in this area, but numerous other projects are funded and underway. Many of these will be funded with a $40 million bond the Board of Trustees approved in June. Allegheny Campus will see completion of the Foerster Archives and Seminar Room, along with improvements to the Ridge Avenue Corridor that include a new bookstore and fitness center in the PE Building and a fine and performing arts center in West Hall. Boyce Campus will see new science laboratories. South Campus will also have new science labs, as well as a new and long-awaited egress road. As we await construction of a new North Campus, West Hills Center will welcome the new Alternative Energy Laboratory and a science lab. System-wide, you will see new carpeting, completion of the math cafés, parking lot upgrades and attention to deferred maintenance.
As we promote additional workforce programs to build our region’s economic growth, the Mechatronics program is expanding to new levels of certification through a federal grant awarded jointly to Pennsylvania’s community colleges. A second cohort of the Roustabout Training program began in June, and a Land Administration certificate is new this fall. The new Alternative Energy Lab will host a new program, and we will also offer a Green and Sustainable Building Design certificate.
We are pleased with the state’s and county’s continued support, but we must explore additional funding streams. We have done so through Imagine & Achieve, our $40 million comprehensive campaign. We have reached nearly $34 million of that goal—for Gap Scholarships, facilities like the new science labs and faculty programs like the John Dziak Fellows.
In April of this year, the community college presidents were joined by students and alumni to encourage the governor and legislators to reverse a proposed 5% cut to the state allocation to our college, and to add new funding for capital projects. Their advocacy paid off. Our friends in the legislature, and an administration now informed of the value of community colleges to the state’s economic recovery, all share credit for this achievement as well. Meeting the challenges of students success, the workforce skills gap and, without exaggeration, the preservation of the American Dream, will all require our combined efforts and dedication. I am honored to have a team like you as we take on these challenges together.