2015 Dr. Box New Horizon/Enrollment Symposium Key Note Remarks

Good Afternoon. I hope you are enjoying the conference so far. This is the first year we have combined these two great system-wide professional development conferences. And, in the words of Rick Blaine in the movie Casablanca, “I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.”

It just makes sense to bring together the individuals responsible for recruitment and student services with faculty to engage in a dialogue around student engagement and success. We all need to forge a strong bond of friendship and cooperation in order to ensure every student who opens one of our college doors achieves their dream.

Every single member of the college community plays an important role in the student success equation. As the African proverb states, “It takes a whole village to raise a child.” The same holds true for our students…it takes an entire college community to raise a student. From the facilities and maintenance staff who ensure that our buildings and grounds are welcoming and clean…to student services staff who help our students navigate the often complicated world of higher education…to faculty who deliver our education product and inspire and challenge our students to expand and broaden their horizons.
Everyone plays an important role.

Yes it takes a community working together towards the same goals to make our students successful.

Both conferences have evolved into one of the great traditions of our system. They provide us with the opportunity to collectively…connect, celebrate and reflect…on the critical work we do every day to enhance the lives of our students and drive the economy in our local communities.

I have been looking forward to this event because this is my first opportunity to formally speak with system-wide faculty and staff since becoming KCTCS president in January. During the next fifteen minutes, I would like to focus on four things….
Celebrating some of our key accomplishments during the past year.
Reviewing our current enrollment and funding picture.
Discussing our vision and role in being our students’ dreamcatcher and
Outlining the development of the 2016 – 2022 strategic planning process.

First the celebrations. I would like to begin by thanking each of you for your continued dedication and commitment to excellence and the students we serve.

Because of your untiring efforts we have a number of things to celebrate today.

Last fall, the National Center of Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) released a report entitled, “The Kentucky Community and Technical College System: The Rise of One of the Nation’s Premier Public Two-Year College Systems.”

The report clearly indicates that we have made a significant impact on the state’s educational landscape since 2000.

The purpose of the report is to highlight the progress made by our system since 2000 in four areas:

(1) Increasing participation,

(2) Improving student outcomes,

(3) Raising the educational attainment of working-aged adults, and

(4) Helping to develop a stronger workforce and economy.

The first part of the report focuses on providing open access to Kentuckians.

Since our creation in 1997, KCTCS has experienced a dramatic increase in annual enrollment from 73-thousand students in 2000 to 135-thousand students in 2013.

That’s an increase of 85%.

According to NCHEMS, one of the best ways to measure our success is to look at the impact KCTCS is having on Kentucky adults without college degrees…especially in the age group of 18 to 34 year-olds who are vitally important to Kentucky’s current and future workforce.

From 2000 to 2012, we significantly increased enrollment among this population.

And now KCTCS ranks fifth in the nation in terms of improvement during that time period.

One reason for success in reaching young adults has been online education.

The report noted an explosion in the number of students enrolled in at least one online course.

It grew from just over three-thousand students in 2000…to nearly 52-thousand in 2013.

In fact, KCTCS is the largest provider of online education in the state.

As one of our primary modes of instructional delivery, online education provides non-traditional students who lead busy, complicated lives with the convenience and flexibility they need to earn college credentials.

The second area of the report focuses on our improvement in student outcomes.

Since 2000, we have seen a dramatic increase in the production of credentials.

The awarding of associate degrees has tripled and the number of certificates has increased ten-fold.

In the critical age group of 18-34, Kentucky’s improvement in awarding college credentials moved us from 32nd to fourth in the nation.

Now that is what I call improving outcomes!

And for the first time in history, Kentucky has surpassed the U.S. average in the attainment of associate degrees among working adults aged 25-34.

No matter which way you cut it, we are making major progress in the educational attainment of Kentuckians.

On the subject of workforce and the economy, NCHEMS praises the work that our sixteen colleges are doing to serve the needs of Kentucky’s employers and effectively linking postsecondary education with workforce and economic development.

Last year alone we served more than 55-hundred businesses and trained more than 49-thousand employees.

The centerpiece of the KCTCS workforce and economic development effort is the KCTCS-TRAINS program.

It is part of the Kentucky Skills Network, which is a partnership between the Cabinet for Economic Development, Kentucky Career Center, Labor Cabinet and KCTCS.

Through KCTCS TRAINS, companies are provided with funding to defray the costs of training and assessment services for current and potential employees to keep them competitive.

NCHEMS also points out that KCTCS leads the nation in its use of data regarding the employment of its graduates.

It shows our graduates are earning higher wages at all levels and fields of study than those who do not receive a credential.

Many states across the nation are having great difficulty acquiring the data or they are avoiding the issue.

I am proud to say we have been producing and using data for this data for nearly a decade.

Education definitely pays – and we can prove it!

Another accomplishment we have to celebrate today is the awarding of the 2015 Jack Kent Cooke Foundation (JKCF) Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship to Bluegrass Community and Technical College student Ebony Nava. This scholarship is given to the nation’s top community college students to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities. It honors exceptionally promising students who have financial need and wish to develop their talents and excel educationally. You might remember Ebony who was the 2013 New Century Scholar.

Another feather in our cap this year was Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College winning the National Faculty Innovation Award from the American Association of Community Colleges for their Workplace Ethics Initiative.

When area businesses voiced a concern that new employees did not understand or value a work ethic needed for organizational survival, they responded. The college worked with business partners to create and implement the Workplace Ethics Agreement. It requires that behaviors in every classroom mirror those expected in the workplace. Since it was implemented in 2011, the college-wide GPA has increased each year, and retention and persistence rates are up.

Another great celebration is Somerset Community College and Southcentral Kentucky Community and Technical College being designated a 2015 Best Places to Work in Kentucky. They were two of four higher education institutions recognized for their commitment to focusing, measuring and moving their workplace environments toward excellence.

And Gateway Community and Technical College is one of 24 institutions of higher education nationwide selected to receive the very first round of grant awards as part of the First in the World Program administered by the U.S. Department of Education Office of Postsecondary Education.

This program was created to seek out proposals for unique and innovative strategies that would help increase national postsecondary graduation rates. Gateway proposed to integrate evidence-based strategies that, within one streamlined framework, will seamlessly deliver three interventions to a target population of degree-seeking students who have at least one developmental need. Through its Flexible Learning and Exploration space (FLEXspace) project, Gateway will address the specific challenges that community colleges face related to access, engagement, and completion of underprepared, underrepresented, and low-income students

And last, but certainly not least, the Aspen Institute awarded West Kentucky Community & Technical College a Finalist-with-Distinction for the 2015 Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence. Selected from 1,123 community colleges nationwide, this is the third time WKCTC has been honored as one of the top ten community colleges in the nation.

These are just a few of the many accomplishments we have enjoyed during the past year. I think Everyone deserves a round of applause for the work we have done to serve our students and communities.

Since 1998 we have been on an incredible journey full of many accomplishments and milestones. But the future we are now facing is different than the one we faced back then. For many years KCTCS experienced phenomenal growth in enrollment. However, the days of exploding enrollments are no longer with us.

Similar to community colleges nationally, we have experienced three years of enrollment declines due primarily to the improvement in the economy. Community colleges experience counter-cyclical effects with regards to the economy. As the economy improves and more jobs become available many of our adult students reenter the workforce. And because they balance very complicated, busy lives it is difficult for them to juggle the demands of work, college and other obligations.

This fact is clearly reflected in our 2014 fall enrollment numbers. Our traditional student (ages 18-24) enrollment has remained fairly stable while our non-traditional student population has decreased by ten percent.

We are also experiencing a shift in enrollment trends from face to face instruction to more flexible delivery methods, such as online delivery.

These enrollment declines coupled with state budget cuts totaling $38.5 million dollars since 2007-08 are seriously impacting our ability to provide Kentuckians with the higher education opportunities they deserve.

In fact, a recent report released from the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) reveal that compared to other states in this region Kentucky’s two-year institutions are significantly underfunded while its’ research institutions are significantly over funded.

KCTCS colleges received 36% less public funds per student compared to the U.S. average and 29% less public funds per students compared to the average of contiguous states.

We lost 13 percent of our real, total public funds per student between 2007-08 and 2012-13. During this same time period the regional universities increased two percent allowing them to keep pace with inflation and enrollment growth.

Since 2008, these budget cuts, along with a growth in enrollment created a double whammy for us. We struggled to balance the increased demand for our programs with a decrease in state funding by the only means we had available…raising tuition. However, the Council on Postsecondary Education limited the tuition amounts institutions could raise by type. Research institutions were allowed the biggest increases, followed by the regional universities and then KCTCS.

Since 2005, tuition rates at Kentucky’s public universities increased 76% compared to 28% at KCTCS. So we kept falling behind.

As I mentioned before, times have changed. We are entering a period of stable, lower enrollments and the past has caught up with us. We now find ourselves in an untenable situation. We cannot continue to place the burden of decreased state support on the backs of our students by raising tuition.

Community colleges are about social justice. Since the landmark 1948 Truman Commission Report our mission has been focused on creating education equity.

This dream is at risk, particularly in Kentucky. We are losing ground.

However, we must remain committed to keeping education affordable and keeping the door of opportunity open for the citizens of this state.

This is why we are not raising tuition for 2015-16. And I am proud to say that we are the only public postsecondary institution in the State not doing so.

However, the combination of no increase in tuition, increases in fixed costs and a decline in enrollment places all of our colleges in a funding dilemma. A dilemma requiring us to reset and readjust our operations.

These are belt tightening times everywhere…at all 16 colleges and the system office. And I know for some of you there are very few holes left on the belt.

I want to take this opportunity to thank you for your support, creativity and commitment to students as we weather these challenging times.

I am extremely optimistic that we will come out of this situation in a stronger and more viable position.

There is a Chinese proverb that says…a crisis is an opportunity riding the dangerous wind.

We are riding a dangerous wind and have two choices. We can either continue doing what we have been doing and expecting different results. Which I don’t have to remind you is Albert Einstein’s definition of insanity.

Or we can decide to embrace the opportunity these challenges present and decide to reinvent and redesign ourselves.

I don’t know about you but I choose the latter.

So where do we go from here and how can each of us shape and embrace the new future we face?

The first immediate thing you can do is to share your college’s story with your friends, families, community leaders and elected officials. Word of mouth is the most powerful communication tool. And it is apparent that we have much work to do in sharing our story and spreading the community college gospel.

So beginning in the Fall, we will be launching an advocacy effort to garner support for additional state funding during the 2016 Biennial Budget legislative session.

The funding of KCTCS is ultimately a decision for the legislature. We are going to need you to ask them to invest in Kentucky’s future by investing in KCTCS.

We need you to let them know that KCTCS prepares the workforce and drives the state’s economy. They need to know we provide the right education for the right skills that employers want and need.

And we need you to let them know that we are constrained in our ability to respond to the needs of employers because we are underfunded.

In early fall we will be sharing a plan outlining how you can assist us with these efforts.

The third thing I would like to share with you today is my vision for the future of KCTCS. Back in January as I was going through the interview process for this position, I was asked by the board of regents about my VISION for the future of KCTCS. I said, “Very simply put, my vision is all about fulfilling DREAMS.”

My goal is to ensure more students not only enter college, but also complete college.

I envision a future where all of our students’ dreams translate into communities with a college-educated workforce, ready and able to fulfill the needs of local business and industry.

Student success is what KCTCS is all about and that means students must feel comfortable reaching out to faculty and staff when they need help and guidance. We know that students who are engaged are the most successful, and it is everyone’s job to engage them.

I think all of you would agree that fulfilling our students’ dreams is at the core of everything we do.

But what exactly are our students’ dreams? And what must we do to help these dreams come true?

The dreams of our students fall into three major categories. We know that more than half of our students dream of completing an associate degree and transferring to a four-year institution. Others dream of earning a credential that leads to a good paying job. While others dream of simply taking customized training courses that will help them advance in their career.

I know that you, as our faculty and staff, are committed to helping our students realize their dreams. You know that these dreams can’t come true by simply having them walk in our doors. They need you to help them take responsibility for their college career by reminding them to file all paperwork…to make sure their tuition is paid on time…and by reinforcing that they must commit to the learning process by showing up for classes, completing all class assignments, and ultimately passing the course.

You also hold up your side of the bargain by providing a welcoming, nurturing learning environment that allows students to explore, take risks and be successful.

But despite this support many of our students still do not achieve their dreams. Why?

Well for one reason, we know that approximately 65% of our incoming students are deficient in one or more foundational areas—math, reading or writing.

We also know that 90% of our students qualify for financial aid and struggle to afford a college degree. And a majority work either part time or full time.

Additionally they lead very demanding lives with family responsibilities that tug at them on a daily basis.

Simply put, our students lead complicated lives that can cause them to DOUBT that they can ever succeed in college.

I want us to remove that doubt by becoming our students’ “DREAMCATCHER”.

That only happens when faculty and staff are actively engaged in the college’s planning and decision making process. We need and want your voices to be heard because you are on the front line. You understand that our students’ accomplishments are directly related to the daily efforts of the faculty and staff and you know what our students need.

That is why as your new system president I am committed to ensuring you have a major voice in the development of the 2016-2022 KCTCS Strategic Plan.

During the early spring I sent out a survey to all faculty and staff, students, community leaders and other stakeholders that asked the question “What does Kentucky need our community and technical colleges to be in 2022?

I am pleased to say that over 3200 individuals responded.

The themes that emerged from the survey fell into several broad categories that include programs and delivery; Values, Organizational Structure and Outcomes; Student Concerns and Affordability; Student Services and Support; Workforce Development; and Statewide Partnerships and Legislative Issues.

With these themes as a backdrop, I conducted 17 listening sessions at all colleges and the system office during April and May. During these sessions I met with over 2,000 faculty, staff, students, community and business leaders, government officials and partner organizations.

During these sessions I heard students express the need for better financial literacy, career services and job placement. They also shared the desire to become mentors and tutors for fellow students. And they told us that they really want to be engaged in telling the college’s story through recruiting activities.

Faculty and staff expressed the need to help students with life issues by connecting them to community resources. Many also reiterated the need for a first-year experience course because many students are not prepared for the rigors of college work. And others mentioned the importance of promoting our transfer program and developing more partnerships with the four-years.

Some faculty and staff stressed the importance of providing more apprenticeship opportunities. And others expressed the need to enhance the services we offer our veteran and active military students to help prepare them quickly for jobs when their military careers are complete.

The business and community leaders I met with stressed the value each of our 16 colleges brings to the local community and the vital role we play in economic and workforce development. They expressed the need to keep the “community” in community college.

They also shared ideas related to workforce development and jobs, the need for soft skill training and more partnerships between the college and the community.

At one college, a board member said to me, “We want to pull students to us instead of them being pushed to us.” I think this is an important point we can all get behind. Nearly every group expressed the need for us to be a student’s number one choice.

A number of community leaders expressed the need to know more about what our colleges are doing and the programs and services they provide. They believe in us and know their future depends on us. They want to help us tell our story and advocate for us.

The next step in the strategic planning process is to make recommendations to the college presidents regarding goals. Then at the June Board of Regents meeting formal vision, values and overarching goals will be established.

During the summer and fall, colleges and the system office will develop individual strategic plans. We are committed to a bubble-up process. Once the local plans are developed a final system plan will be completed in June 2016.

Additionally, we will be working to align our plan with the strategic plans of our key statewide partners including the Kentucky Department of Education, the Council on Postsecondary Education, Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, Kentucky Association of Manufacturing, Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development and Kentucky Rising.

Regional planning sessions will be conducted to ensure that everyone is moving in the same direction towards the same goal.

Yes we have some challenging times ahead of us but I believe we are riding a wind of opportunity.

As Henry Ford once said, “When everything seems to be going against you, remember that the airplane takes off against the wind, not with it.”

In closing, while we are facing challenging winds, I strongly believe that similar to an airplane these winds will provide us with the lift needed to enhance, and yes lift, the state’s economy and the lives of all its citizens.

Thank you very much and have a wonderful conference.

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