BSCC holds first town hall meeting

By NICOLE SMITH
Posted 5/17/18

SUMITON - Amid reports of budget woes, eliminated programs, and a faculty and staff reduction, Bevill State Community College President Dr. Kim Ennis provided some answers at a town hall meeting on …

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BSCC holds first town hall meeting

Posted

SUMITON - Amid reports of budget woes, eliminated programs, and a faculty and staff reduction, Bevill State Community College President Dr. Kim Ennis provided some answers at a town hall meeting on the Sumiton campus Tuesday night.

Ennis began her speech by stating the college's desire to connect with the community and inform the public about some tough decisions that have been made in the past few months to create a balanced budget — part of the college's strategic plan.

Bevill State's strategic plan adopted in 2017 is set to run until 2020, and is comprised of five main goals: Developing one-stop centers on all campuses, re-imagining developmental education, strategic enrollment management, reinventing workforce solutions/community and economic development, and rethinking all financial strategies.

One-stop centers will eventually be on all campuses to house multiple student services in one building, and the college is hoping to find more effective strategies for students that have to take remedial courses.

The last three points of the strategic plan have been implemented heavily in the past couple of months, due to Ennis' finding in mid-summer 2017, while she was interim president, that the college was deficit spending for five consecutive years.

The total amount of deficit has not been released, nor if the college is currently deficit spending. 

Ennis said the position for college president had been advertised four times since 2014, and she said the lack of a stable leader for a long period of time allowed deficit spending to continue without awareness. She said the college also didn't have a steady chief financial officer to monitor day-to-day operations.

Bevill State is currently doing interviews to hire a new chief financial officer in the coming weeks. 

"With the changing leadership of our institution and no solid chief financial officer in our finance area, we were deficit spending for five years," Ennis said. "You've got to rethink and look at everything you're doing."

She said the college currently has a $30 million operating budget — $23 million of which is salaries and benefits. The college only receives $15 million from the state for their operating budget, Ennis said, and money from tuition and fees has to be generated to cover the remaining costs.

Ennis said many have asked how the college could deficit spend for so long, but until she was interim president for many consecutive months, she said she simply didn't know of the college's financial hardships.

"I'm the president now, and I know, and when you're the president, it's your responsibility to know," she said. "Every decision we're making is to protect the longevity of the institution."

Ennis said someone asked her why other area colleges are not struggling financially. She said other colleges with higher enrollment are likely getting more money from the state, and unlike Bevill, those colleges do not have a seven-county service area with 55 buildings to maintain.  

In April, the college announced the reduction of 15 faculty and staff members in total from the college's five campus locations, and last August, the college laid off 19 employees as a result of the deficit spending discovery.

More recently, the college had to cut a few programs, at the dismay of many in attendance of the town hall meeting Tuesday.

Eliminated programs include auto body repair and diesel mechanics technology on the Sumiton campus; and automotive technician, advanced design engineering and machine tool technology on the Hamilton campus. The automotive technician program and advanced design engineering program will remain open on the Sumiton campus, and the machine tool technology program on the Jasper campus will remain open.   

"We've had to make some immediate cuts, because from Montgomery, I have been told, 'You've got to balance your budget,'" Ennis said. "We've done an in-depth study of our data — every program that we offer. ... We haven't made any decisions that didn't have data to support those decisions."

Data was examined over a five-year period and included program viability, labor and market analysis and job demand, according to Bevill State Director of Public Relations Tana Collins. 

Moving forward, Ennis said the college will focus on increasing retention and enhancing workforce solution opportunities, which provide industry recognized certificates for students wanting to quickly pursue a particular career. 

She said increasing enrollment and the graduation rate will be critical to securing much needed funding to enhance workforce solutions and career tech options.

"The state of Alabama is going to something called outcome based funding. There are several components, but in the future, colleges will be funded based on about 10 different metrics," she said. "Translated, that's enrollment and completions. ... This coming year, 10 percent of our budget will already be based on outcome based funding. The intent of the state is to increase that year after year until, hopefully, you're totally dependent on outcome based funding." 

During the question and answer portion of the meeting, Megan Carr, an automotive student, asked if there were other avenues the college could take to prevent the elimination of programs, such as pay cuts for employees.  

"At this time, we have studied our data and looked and the graduate numbers in each of those programs over a period of time," Ennis responded. "For a program to be considered viable, you have to have at least eight graduates per year."

Earlier in the meeting, Ennis said the programs cut did not meet the state mandated requirement for the number of graduates.

Anthony Myrick, an instructor with the Walker County Center of Technology, asked Ennis if she had a copy of the data being referenced.

"This meeting is more of a plan to connect with the community, and I painted the big picture of how we made our decisions. We've been studying our data for six months in conjunction with Montgomery," Ennis said. "There are so many factors that are out of our control, but we have to deal with the factors that we have and try to maintain the integrity and the longevity of our college."

Ennis said the public can go online and complete a data request form for specific information on enrollment for the eliminated programs; however during a phone call from the Daily Mountain Eagle Wednesday, Katie Gallagher, an administrative assistant for institutional effectiveness and research, said  the online data request form is meant for internal requests, not public requests.

Gallagher said anyone who would like to submit a request may do so, however, through the internal request form by typing their personal email address in the supervisor email address field.

The form may be found at www.bscc.edu/about/institutional-effectiveness-research/data-request-form.   

The Eagle did submit a request on Wednesday for data in reference to the eliminated programs, but no information was provided by press time.

Myrick also questioned if the college had attempted to form partnerships with businesses that could perhaps fund eliminated programs. His question did not receive a firm answer, but Ennis said once the college has a balanced budget, partnerships will be explored to enhance course offerings.

The meeting also included a speech from Al Moore, the dean of career technical education and workforce solutions, and the introduction of Jana Kennedy as the director of student services for the Sumiton campus.

Other town hall meetings will be held on the Jasper, Fayette and Hamilton campuses. The town hall meeting on the Jasper campus will be held Monday, May 21, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of Wade Math and Science Building.

The Fayette meeting will be held Thursday, May 24, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Earl McDonald Auditorium, and the Hamilton meeting will be held Thursday, May 17, from 6 to 7 p.m. in the Bears' Den.     

Despite financial concerns, Ennis told the Eagle in October that general enrollment has been on the increase since 2016,  along with dual enrollment. She also said the college continues to look for partnerships — such as their recent one with Alabama Power for a new HVAC training center — to offer students a wide variety of educational options.