August’s President’s Update

We welcomed a new team of student leaders for the fall semester. As we begin the academic year, our students provide hope for the future and inspire us to be fully focused on student success.

Aug. 26, 2019

Good morning CF Family:

I hope that your semester is off to a good start. It’s refreshing to see all of the students back on our campuses and feel the energy of a new academic year.

First, a BIG thank you to our Student Affairs team who has been busy getting all of the students ready for classes this fall. From applications, transcript evaluations, advising, registration, testing, disability support, financial aid, you get the picture! It takes a great team to handle all of those details for our students so they feel the welcoming CF learning environment. Thank you for getting our students ready for our faculty and the learning ahead. Also, a special thanks to the facilities team for getting our learning and support spaces ready and to our faculty for all the work getting courses set up. I don’t think there is a single person here who isn’t working in some way to help get us ready. Thank you!

The work of getting a new academic year off and running can be exciting and challenging all at the same time. As we settle into this semester, we have challenges and opportunities ahead. This past spring we approved our updated five-year strategic plan and reset our strategic priorities, goals and objectives to be fully focused on student success.

As you know, we have been on an historic nine-year enrollment decline and have lost almost one quarter (23.3%) of our student enrollment since 2010. The enrollment decline has resulted in a $4.2 million reduction in annual revenue from tuition. During this time, we have worked hard to advocate for additional state funding to help with the reductions. While we have been successful with specific operational support for the college, it hasn’t been at the level to offset the lost revenue from tuition and to keep pace with rising costs. We have increased the annual revenue from state appropriations by $3.2 million over the same period, but it’s not enough.

At the same time, our fixed expenses (utilities and insurance) continue to increase as they do for other businesses. Compounded with those challenges, we continue to receive direction from Tallahassee to hold the line on tuition increases. We have also not been able to give consistent recurring raises to our employees who are delivering our high-quality learning environment. Local employers are also requesting new programs in high-demand / high-wage areas that are estimated to cost an additional $2 million annually. Lastly, we budgeted this year for a 1% drop in enrollment and, as of this morning, we are down nearly 5% this semester.

In the face of these challenges, we have continued to deliver a high-quality learning environment and student outcomes that have consistently led us to being rated a top college in the country. However, we have reached the capacity of our current resources, and in order to meet current and growing demands, it is time to take an in-depth look at our operations and find ways to align our available resources with the highest priorities of our mission. I have therefore asked senior staff to identify how we would reduce our recurring annual budget by $1 million.

We are asking for your thoughtful input through a brief two-question survey. Please share your ideas to increase revenue and decrease expenses by clicking here. You will also have opportunities for discussion with your team. And our governance groups, including Faculty Senate, Career and Professional Employees Council, Student Leadership, Management Team and College Council, will meet to discuss. All ideas are welcome. As we start budget planning in the spring, the results of our discussions will help influence our investment in students, team and community in the next budget year. We have a strong team with creative ideas that can help us make the college even stronger.

Our situation is similar to many colleges throughout the state and country as we continue to deal with declining enrollment and competing priorities at the state level during this economic growth period. Please know how much I value your commitment to our students and community, and I look forward to your ideas and questions during this process.

Thank you in advance for your participation.