Community colleges struggle with their resource allocation models with an aim to ensure that it is equitable, fair, and objective. Without a strategy, budget difficulties become ongoing debates during budget, planning, and Board meetings. “One-time fixes” frequently do not address the underlying problem. Therefore, many institutions only postpone the inevitable, operating in a classic “downward spiral.” In the process, they drain contingency reserves and human resources to the point where more comprehensive corrective action is simply outside their reach.
Rather than simply reacting to crises or waiting for the State to rectify its funding problems, community colleges should engage the faculty community in understanding the financial implications of such mechanisms as Full-Time Equivalent Students (FTESs) and Weekly Student Contact Hours (WSCHs). Other colleges have found that increases in WSCHs will not only generate more net revenues, but also will help them to be in compliance with the 50% Law.
The preferred strategy is to enhance revenues and capabilities to meet demands, rather than to curtail important educational offerings or restrict enrollments.
Adopting a strategic approach to cost management requires that the colleges revisit and refocus their missions. Within the framework of their missions, the colleges can evaluate individual activities and programs against the goals of that mission. A strategic approach also requires that the institution look outside the boundaries of its four walls, and assess the strategic importance of its programs, facilities, and community service offerings in the broader context of the community. Only through this inside/outside perspective will the unique attributes and qualities of the colleges become apparent. In addition, this perspective is important in helping the colleges to:
- Assess their position in the community
- Understand ways in which external linkages and alliances – partnerships – may be used to reinforce these strategic linkages
The ideas that KH Consulting Group (KH) will be sharing in the future assume that colleges are capable of self-renewal, have the capacity to increase revenues, and can involve stakeholders in providing input to how they can help the organization and operations overall. This strategic approach presents an alternative to reactionary management and should enable colleges to improve their operations, refocus their programs, and better serve their community needs overall.
Future postings will share ideas about how to do this.