This semester is off to a fast and wonderful start. Enrollment is up substantially and to a level that is frankly a bit of a surprise. We anticipated an enrollment increase due to a well designed and utilized publicity and information campaign emphasizing the cost benefit of attending SCCC/ATS; and we anticipated an enrollment bump due to the economic situation with more people considering a new career or upgrading their technical skills. However, we have been pleasantly surprised with an enrollment increase exceeding 17% across the college including an enrollment increase exceeding 50% in the industrial technology programs. This enrollment increase comes at a time when state funding has declined to a level comparable with the appropriations our college received in 2006. The enrollment increase is fantastic for our college, our students, and our community – and we’re realizing we can serve those students at a time when state revenues have declined. We are doing that through various budget reductions across all aspects of our college operations – utilities, travel, professional development, reduction in some contracted services, reduction in supply use, etc. We’ve chosen not to lay off or furlough employees but have instead reduced positions due to attrition.

Our situation is not entirely unique as I read articles, visit with peers, and hear stories of similar situations across the nation in the higher education community. While this enrollment increase and revenue decrease is occurring I find that our faculty, staff, administration, and Board leadership continue to strive for the improvement of our college and the experience we provide students. Our industrial technology programs have vastly improved curriculum, seeking national certifications, providing more relevant instruction, and industry expectations for their students. Our fine arts department displayed a new level of excitement and enthusiasm with a recent production of The Wizard of Oz (four sold out performances), expanded performances at our first Sunday brunch for the semester, discussion of hosting an evening “coffee house” of student performances, and expanded courses in jewelry and ceramics. Our allied health department has launched a cooperative distance education program with Manhattan Area Technical College in north-east Kansas to provide medical lab tech and surgical technician courses to that area of the state. Our business division has expanded the programs in computer applications, entrepreneurship (assisting the City of Liberal in hosting a franchise information event) and starting to plan for a rural sustainability conference this spring. Our grounds and maintenance teams have continued to ensure that our campus is a little “oasis” and I continue to receive very positive comments from visitors, students, etc. on the fantastic appearance of our facilities and grounds. They worked tirelessly this summer in doing a facelift to various aspects of the area technical school buildings and working on various concrete and sidewalk projects across the entire campus.

We are in a great time of seeing students attend classes, achieve academic and career skills, and a continued focus on student and college achievement. At the same time we are compiling our institutional systems portfolio as part of our accreditation process and seeking additional external funding through federal grants for improving our buildings, infrastructure and instructional options for students and our role in economic development. It’s truly a great semester with many challenges and also great anticipation of student success.