JCCC Prez Predicts Layoffs, Tuition Increases

A message from JCCC President Joseph Sopcich, posted to the Johnson County Community College electronic mailserver, Infolist:

From: InfoList
Sent: Wednesday, September 11, 2013 1:04 PM
To: InfoList
Subject: [infolist] A message from Joe Sopcich

Throughout the history of our college, we have successfully served the community in many ways. In the process, we have acquired a national reputation for achievement, innovation and success in working with our students to succeed. In a sense, these accomplishments have helped to create the traditions of this institution, as well as the “mini-traditions” we continue in various areas throughout our campus community. 

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed history and actually relish an occasional look backwards, because so many times, history teaches us about where we are today and why. When I look back at the history of our college, one of the mantras used when our founders started the place was “Yes, we have no traditions.” In other words, we have nothing in our set way of doing things that can prevent us from inventing, innovating and doing great things.

I wonder whether during the years ahead we should re-adopt the mantra of “Yes, we have no traditions” and challenge ourselves to take a fresh and objective look at everything we do, a look that is uninhibited by our current ways of doing business, a look that is inspired to improve the performance of our students. 

Over the past few weeks, many of you have listened to and watched Patrick Rossol-Allison and me talk about key performance indicators (KPIs) and the budget. Or as one person put it, in a rather open discussion with me, the “Doom and Gloom speech.” (I was uncertain as to whether I was Doom or Gloom or both.) Now there are some who might see it that way, but actually I believe there is infinite opportunity in the information presented. In every case, we have the opportunity, provided we work together, to make this college better and improve student success. And this is what we’re going to do.

This past Saturday, Cabinet members along with faculty leadership met with the board of trustees in a retreat to talk about the college’s budget. It is important that all parties are aware of the challenges and steps that are being planned in order to give us our best opportunity to achieve our budget objectives. This month we will start planning (two months earlier than usual) the budget for fiscal year 2014-2015, which begins July 1, 2014. We want to make sure we have plenty of time to assure proper data collection and participation across campus. There is much work to be done.

For those of you who attended one of our Budget 201 presentations during Professional Development Days or the presentations to faculty gatherings, adjunct faculty orientation, or the AMS meeting, you know we have several goals we need to accomplish this year with the budget to ensure the long-term vitality of the organization. These are not insurmountable; in fact they are achievable with great and selfless effort on everyone’s part.  These goals are to:

  1. Stabilize the college’s reserves at $21-$23 million, or no less than 16% of our annual operating budget, to allow for two months of operations should a crisis occur.
  2. Stabilize the college’s capital budget at $10 million and replenish the capital operating fund so we can maintain our facilities at a level that serves our students.
  3. Set our salaries and benefits at a level we can sustain for the foreseeable future.

For us to accomplish these goals, we need to pursue two primary courses of action:

  1.  Implement a plan for tuition rates that is consistent and informs students years in advance of what we’re going to charge so they can plan accordingly. Consequently, we plan to propose to the trustees a $3 a year tuition increase over the next five years.  If approved by the trustees, this means that by fiscal year 2018-2019, one credit hour will cost $100.
  2. Reduce the budget by at least $3 million. 

It is the second point that will attract the greatest interest.

First, we need to stay focused on programs, not individuals. We will take a close look at all programs of the college. Each program, be it an academic program or a support area, will be asked to evaluate its performance and contribution to the college, based on a variety of criteria. Criteria used could be cost of the program, enrollment, enrollment trends, growth potential and national standing; service areas could look at volume of work/projects, cost to deliver such volume, redundancies in service, benchmarks versus other institutions, and more. Throughout the process, there needs to be consistency between areas, but also enough flexibility to accommodate the varied nature of all that we do on campus.

Again this year we’ll follow the PBS (Prioritizing the Budget Strategically) process, in which we ask that all expense lines are justified. We’re also committed to a budget process, currently under development, that will be characterized by the following principles:

Transparency
Inclusivity
Civility
Data-driven
Accuracy
Demand-driven
Accountability

A $3 million reduction is significant, and we have already made substantial progress toward this goal with staffing changes made earlier in the summer. As for the next step, I wish I could write that no employees will be affected by this, but they will. To accomplish this, we will almost certainly have to eliminate programs and positions. How many? I do not know the answer to that question. But I do know how we’re going to find these answers. And that will be together, as one campus, as one community.

The thorough program evaluation process described above is an exercise that every organization should do every year. We owe this to those who entrust us with our mission and the funds to pursue it. Ultimately, we’ll be a stronger organization because of it. I know some people are apprehensive about what all this will mean; as we go through the process, we’ll arrive at a better definition. We will work on methods of communication to keep everyone apprised of developments along the way.

In closing, I ask you to remember the mantra of our founders, “Yes, we have no traditions.” As you evaluate your programs, ask yourselves why do we do what we do and whether there is a better way to serve our students and help them succeed. This isn’t going to be easy, but we have such a wonderful opportunity to succeed because of the high quality of professionals we have on our campus. I trust we’ll take advantage of it and look to the future. Our students are counting on us.

Please let us know of your questions and concerns. Your input is always appreciated. Thank you.

Joe

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