My first semester at Colby-Sawyer has affirmed the strengths I noted as a presidential candidate: our students are extraordinary young people who excel in their coursework thanks to the combination of liberal arts, pre-professional majors and powerful experiential learning opportunities. Our faculty and staff are committed to the success of each student in remarkable ways. Our alumni are leaders in their professions and communities. As we head into the final weeks of the semester, I am grateful for the warm welcome all of you have offered and truly feel blessed to be at this special institution.
Part of my job the first few months was to identify quickly the strategic issues facing Colby-Sawyer. The most urgent strategic question that emerged was the optimal size for Colby-Sawyer. As some of you know, our enrollment has fluctuated in recent years, growing as large as nearly 1,500 four years ago and settling at 1,100 this year. These changes have had an impact on our finances. For the past two years, the college has been operating at a loss of more than $2 million, and the current year’s projections showed another loss of $2.6 million.
For the past several months, the college worked with a consulting firm to examine how we can attract the best students at a predictable and realistic enrollment size and in a manner that helps us better manage our resources. Extensive analyses suggest our optimal size will be closer to where we are now at 1,100.
In response to these strategic questions and pressures, since the October Board of Trustees meetings, the Senior Staff and I, Academic Council (composed of academic department chairs) and many others have been reviewing our staffing models, our academic programs and our administrative structure. I write to provide an update on the steps being taken.
Colby-Sawyer College has taken the following steps:
- Seven faculty were notified of the college’s intent to separate.
- Eleven staff members were notified their positions have been eliminated.
- An additional eleven staff have had their positions modified either in number of hours per week or months per year.
- Additional savings were realized from 19 (5 faculty and 14 staff) planned departures that will not be replaced due to attrition.
In total, 48 positions were affected. These combined faculty and staff reductions and restructuring total more than $2 million over the next three years, which accounts for the timing required for notice and departures.
These decisions were incredibly difficult, and I regret very much that they had to be made. The Board of Trustees, the Senior Leadership Team and I greatly appreciate the talent and dedication our colleagues have offered in service of the institution. A number of resources will be offered to those affected to help with their transition. Employees will continue to have access to their Colby-Sawyer email accounts and Human Resources will offer support including planning a number of workshops aimed to assist with their transition. In addition, employees will continue to have access to the Hogan Sports Center.
Other Steps Taken
In addition to the savings from personnel restructuring, the Senior Staff and I examined other ways to reduce costs and increase revenues. We have identified over $410,000 in permanent savings through cost reductions in contracted services, changes to our health insurance premium structure, study abroad fees, among others. We are exploring additional revenue opportunities. We are also examining our residency requirements along with our pricing strategies in a way that optimizes the student experience while also attending to institutional revenue needs.
In combination, these multiple steps go a long way toward remedying the structural deficit projected for this year and beyond.
Next Steps and Moving Forward
One of the greatest privileges I have had during my first months in the presidency is meeting with Colby-Sawyer alumni. Our alumni illustrate first-hand the compelling outcomes this institution creates. Our alumni are leaders in their professions and in their communities. On campus, I learn every day about how our students’ lives are being transformed thanks to their experiential learning opportunities and the individual support they receive from our dedicated faculty and staff. I take very seriously my responsibility for stewarding this institution not just for today’s students, but on behalf of our alumni and future students. Like many other colleges across the country, we have had to make difficult decisions to ensure our sustainability. Yet, I remain completely committed to, and confident in, the incredible power of a Colby-Sawyer degree in changing students’ lives.
I remain confident that Colby-Sawyer has a very bright future thanks to the talented students we attract, to the strong dedication our faculty and staff possess, and to the many examples of success our alumni exhibit.