Letter from President John Van Domelen: Restructure

 

The College is in no danger of closing. As we continue to take action to improve our recruiting, retention, and fundraising we will emerge stronger and with a brighter future.

Dear friends of Prescott College,

I write to let you know that because of the need to reduce costs given lower enrollments while maintaining the quality of our distinctive curriculum and student experience at Prescott College, we have undertaken several significant initiatives including layoffs.

In recent years, Prescott College has seen a decrease in its undergraduate enrollments like many other liberal arts colleges nationwide. In order to remain on sound financial footing into our future, we have had to reduce our number of employees to match our student enrollment. This right-sizing began with significant reductions in the size of the upper administration and middle management with the elimination of vacant positions. In addition, the completion of the right-sizing involved the layoff of fourteen staff members out of a total workforce of about 150. None of these cuts were done because of problems in performance. These were good people who worked hard for the College. We said farewell in the best traditions of Prescott College and we will miss them.

During the enrollment downturn these past three years, we have tried to avoid such layoffs through a number of short-term strategies. Most significantly, our employees have generously supported one another’s continued employment by accepting across the board pay cuts, furlough days, and a pause in payments into our retirement program. This generosity was meant to be short term but has persisted for too long. It is time for the College to give back to our employees by improving compensation. I am pleased to announce for the coming budget year furlough days and retirement benefits will be restored!

The primary goal of the right-sizing has been to preserve and improve the student experience. Our faculty and our curriculum remain intact. We are using this right-sizing as an opportunity to restructure our organization to accelerate progress on strategic priorities that improve curricular options and student services for students. For example, a key goal in our strategic plan is to improve student satisfaction (the 2020 Plan is posted: http://www.prescott.edu/explore/campus-and-fieldstations/departments-and-offices/administration/administration-strategic-planning.html). Our annual student satisfaction surveys show that students are dissatisfied with "getting the run around" between offices and employees. So in the reorganization, we will strengthen the integration of our "One Stop Shop" for student services to include not only the Registrar, Financial Aid, Student Billing, but also Advising, Career Services, and other aspects of the former Office of Student Life. Another strategic priority is to better connect key student life functions to the curriculum. We will integrate other areas that were formerly in Student Life into the academic side of the house (e.g., Student Housing, Student Activities, SUB, and student judiciary will be located within our On-Campus Programs; tutoring and learning support services will be integrated into our Library and Learning Commons).

Our “One College” strategic initiatives are bringing faculty members together across historic silos of delivery and degree level to share their expertise with one another and with students across the College. This past spring, the faculty approved the creation of cross-college departments. In the coming year, faculty will be reviewing the curricular offerings of each department and prioritizing improvements that best serve students across the College. Exciting new curricular opportunities for students are now available because of this more integrated approach (see here, for example, the Early Admissions to Graduate Study / Accelerated Pathways to Masters Degrees recently developed by the new cross-college Academic Council).

I know that you will have questions, concerns and suggestions for us to consider during this restructuring. We want to hear from you. Please do send your questions and suggestions to Cathy Church at cchurch@prescott.edu. We will compile a list to share with the cross-college team that is working on the restructuring. The initial reorganization will be complete and communicated to you in the coming weeks. In the coming months, I will bring together a group (including student representatives) to review the reorganization and to make sure that we continue to evolve in ways that best serve our students.

I want you all to know that the College’s finances are sound because of this restructuring. The College is in no danger of closing. As we continue to take action to improve our recruiting, retention, and fundraising we will emerge stronger and with a brighter future. Because of the quality and dedication of all of our staff, faculty, students, and alumni Prescott College will continue to provide one of the best educations available.

Sincerely,
John F. Van Domelen, President
Prescott College

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