Germanna Community College is in the business of hope, and despite state budget cuts, business will continue to be good.
That’s the message GCC President David A. Sam delivered to about 300 faculty members and staff during his State of the College address Tuesday at the Daniel Technology Center in Culpeper.
Good planning has helped Germanna deal with recent state budget cuts, Sam said.
He said a contingency fund set up to deal with a potential dip in state funding or enrollment has helped. There have been no layoffs at Germanna and none are planned.
“We’ve balanced the budget doing as little harm as possible,” he told the crowd at Germanna’s biannual College Learning Day, an event focused primarily on professional development.
“Instead of buying things we needed or hiring people we needed, we put some money in the contingency fund, hoping we wouldn’t need it later,” Sam said. “We planned for a budget cut and/or enrollment decline and we are OK today.”
He warned, however, that more state cuts may lie ahead and that difficult choices may have to be made. Sam has asked staff to look for areas where the college might save money, but said Germanna’s belt is already tightly cinched.
The figures are subject to change, but Rick Brehm, Germanna’s vice president for administrative services, estimated that GCC will see about a $250,000 cut this year and approximately a $300,000 cut next year.
Under an agreement between the governor and the General Assembly last week, the cuts for higher education would be reduced from an average of 5 percent this year and 7 percent next year to an average of 3.3 percent in each year. The target amounts for each of the institutions vary depending on the number of out of state students enrolled and dependence on the state general fund.
Numbers are subject to change.
Sam said enrollment, which has been declining at many colleges around the nation in part because of a demographic decline in the number of graduating seniors, has been flat, but steady over the past couple or years after rapid growth in the previous five years.
Germanna serves about over 7,000 students on the credit side in addition to thousands who receive non-credit workforce development training each year.
Because of demographic trends, enrollment isn’t likely to increase until 2017 or 2018, he said, when there will be more high school students coming through the pipeline nationally.
Sam talked about steps Germanna is taking to help meet a state goal of tripling the total number of credentials—degrees and certifications awarded over the next five years.
He said the college’s new Student Success Program, which features the introduction of seven Student Success Coaches, led by Antwan Perry, will play a critical role.
Sam said the Student Success Coaches are “The only people whose job it is to constantly pay attention to a group of students --an arm around the shoulder, and if necessary, a kick in the seat of the pants.”
“If we can do more to get students engaged,” he said, “we can help students succeed.”
He said that Germanna can’t depend on a bowl-bound football team or a March Madness qualifying basketball team to boost enrollment.
In any case, those things don’t make for better teaching, he noted.
Sam said that what Germanna can depend on is the fact that its faculty and staff sincerely care about students and get involved with them in a way that’s difficult for large universities to match.