The Bridge plus

A recap of Chancellor Keon’s Town Hall meeting (8/8)

Chancellor Keon told faculty and staff Thursday (8/8) at a Town Hall meeting that the campus is in a planning mode characteristic of a changing university.

During the 90+-minute gathering, Chancellor Keon offered comments and perspectives plus responses to faculty and staff questions. He also expressed disagreement with news media reports that a campus crisis exists due to a projected revenue shortfall from an anticipated 5 percent enrollment decrease this fall.

“There is a difference between a crisis and planning for the future,” he said. “We are not in crisis; once we realized our enrollment this fall would be down, we (Senior Leadership Team) began discussions about reducing our budget by $3 million.”

Chancellor Keon added that while “we have reserves to cover our anticipated shortfall this year,” 2013-14 year revenue drives the 2014-15 campus budget. So it is necessary to position the campus prudently during the next fiscal year and beyond.

In response, Chancellor Keon announced the following…

  • The projected $3 million budget reduction for 2014-15 will be split between academic instruction and other campus sources;
  • 12 faculty members will take advantage of the recently proposed faculty retirement incentive offer, available through Aug. 11;
  • seven faculty members—one continuing lecturer and six assistant professors—will be notified that their final Purdue Calumet contract year will be either 2013-14 or 2014-15;
  • Interest has surfaced in leasing and/or purchasing the Academic Learning Center in south Lake County, revenue from which would “go a long way in enabling us to address the $3 million shortfall;”
  • Purdue Calumet has attracted stronger academic classes of freshman students the past few years. (“Over a four-year period, we have experienced amazing improvement in the quality of freshmen entering Purdue Calumet.”)
  • It is likely that those high performing students are coming to Purdue Calumet with high school transcripts that include growing numbers of AP and dual credit courses—presumably contributing to enrollment declines the university is experiencing in general education courses.
  • Improving the university’s ability to access needed data and manage enrollment functions, including student record keeping, are priority focus areas that can help build enrollment.

Chancellor Keon’s responses to various questions following his presentation:

Q: Why are we not we using cash reserves to forestall job reductions?

A: We plan to use cash reserves to cover the $3 million shortfall this year. What we are trying to do is plan for the next three to four years. If we do not take steps right now to plan for the future, we also would have to use some of that cash reserve next year. That is not a good way to manage a budget—eventually, you run out of resources. Cash flow matters. When you have negative cash flow, you can only maintain that for a (limited) time, and then you have to cover.

Q: Hiring is occurring simultaneous to reductions. Why do we not have a hiring freeze?

A: Personnel planning and HR strategy are very important. As we look over the institution and key positions, we need to be viable and competitive for the long run. We will continue hiring to fill positions in key areas. For example, with regard to Banner development, student records and our web site, Information Services and Enrollment Management must continue to be staffed for the future and to continually improve

Q: Will the partial retirement plan (for faculty) be phased out?

A: The phased retirement plan is a Purdue system-wide opportunity; it is not guaranteed. I don’t perceive the system will stop offering it. However, (our) SLT is not inclined to allow people to go into that program in the short run. We don’t encourage the program at this time, because it does not actually save us as much as it would seem. We still have to pay benefits and incur a five-year liability to the faculty members while they are teaching part-time. It only saves about 33 percent of a faculty member’s salary.

Q: Can you clarify the number of faculty (positions) that have been eliminated?

A: 14 continuing lecturers during 2012-13; actually, there were 30 total positions, because 16 were left unfilled.

Q: Did President Daniels approve the layoffs and voluntary retirement?

A: Yes

Q: If our revenue shortfall improved, could faculty terminations be rescinded?

A: Any way in which we could find a cost savings to help us take those letters back would be wonderful. We will be looking at options all year to rescind those letters.

Q: You indicated half the $3 million shortfall will be addressed within instructional areas. What about the other $1.5 million?

A: We will look at all other areas. Lease of the ALC (Academic Learning Center) would be a large piece, about $0.6 million. For other parts of the university, only 30 days to six months’ notice for staff reductions will be necessary. . . We are not ready to do that, but there will be cuts on the staff side.

Q: Are we going to do more or less with dual credit?

A: We do minimal (involvement) now… The way we do it is not cost effective, (so) we will keep our numbers limited.

Q: Ivy Tech charges lower tuition—what is the impact of that on Purdue Calumet?

A: We need to make sure our classes and programs are so strong that students will want to come to Purdue Calumet. It’s up to us to make sure we offer a better, more desirable product.

Q: What about our expansion of athletics?—Does it help enrollment or not? What about the financial impact?

A: … Two years ago, we had (approximately) 80 to 90 student-athletes. We will have 200 this fall. We are bringing in three to four times more money in the tuition (these student-athletes pay) than we are spending on athletics. Through athletics, we are (attracting) an increased number of the right type of student.

Q: Are we looking at student persistence?

A: We look at persistence year to year. Over the last five years the persistence (retention) rate has increased 9 percent, which means we are getting better quality students. We need to improve data collection and retention to understand why (students) leave us and where they go.

Q: What about continuing to recruit international students?

A: About 6 or more percent of our enrollment is international students. We just lost the person who heads that program, and she was very good… We want to continue to attract students from other parts of the world.

Q: How have admission changes impacted our enrollment of quality minority students?

A: There was (little) impact last year… We saw African-American and Hispanic students decline by 2 percent; however, that includes online enrollment. On campus, minority enrollment is stable; in fact, I believe we can increase our Hispanic enrollment.

Q: What is the timeline for (conducting) paperless admissions?

A: I hope at least 50 percent this year and all (paperless) by next year.

Q: … How are you going to make the changes a reality this time? I’m not seeing any change in the administration?

A: If you don’t see change, you haven’t been paying attention. (For example), we appointed a new Vice Chancellor for Enrollment Management to direct an improved enrollment management plan. She has corrected more problems in six weeks than were corrected in probably the last 20 years. . . We are making changes; we are getting there.

Chancellor Keon’s closing comment:

“… We have been going through an enormous change. We are becoming a different university that must be able to compete for quality students. We need to offer quality programs, quality service and be a student-friendly campus. If we take the correct steps, we will be the institution students want to attend…”