Around the Block
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After a year of staff reductions and $8 million in budget cuts, “the broad outlook for CC is stable,” President Richard Celeste told attendees of an Open Budget Forum on Dec. 17. While cautioning that the college’s financial condition is subject to economic changes, Celeste said he sees no reason for further reductions in staff. “We are better positioned than many institutions,” he said.
Since last fiscal year, when an ad hoc budget planning committee tackled major cuts, the college has adopted new budget planning practices. The budget-committee approach was formalized, the budget approval time has moved earlier in the year, and more time will be devoted to budget development. The new permanent Budget Committee is made up of faculty, staff, students, administrators, and a trustee. Next year’s budget will go before the Board of Trustees for approval in February, rather than May. And work on the following fiscal year’s budget will begin much earlier than in the past.
Indications that the economic picture nationally is stabilizing, plus signs of improvement on campus, led Celeste to express cautious optimism. The college’s endowment, which fell from its brief high point of $522.7 million to a low of $401.7 million during the stock market turmoil, has since recovered substantially to a level of $446 million. There are signs that the campus community is spending carefully: The percentage of operating budget expended as of Nov. 30 is 40.5 percent, compared to 44.5 percent at the same time last year, and 44 percent at the same time in 2007.
“That suggests a recognition that in order to do right, we all have to pay close attention to our expenditures,” Celeste said. “There will continue to be places where we have to make careful choices. We have to continue to operate in a frugal fashion. I am grateful for the hard work done by all of you.”
Dean of the College/Dean of the Faculty Susan Ashley, who chairs the Budget Committee, explained the background of the budget adjustments, starting with the Working Group on Stewardship and Cost Containment, which cut the budget on the administrative side by 5 percent in fall 2008, before the economic slide. Then, in December, when the recession had dramatically cut the value of the endowment, the Board of Trustees determined that the college needed to reduce staff positions and find $8 million in savings. Celeste created an ad hoc budget planning committee to recommend ways to balance the budget, and initiated a voluntary staff separation program. The ad hoc committee asked administrative departments to identify at least another 5 percent in economies, and academic departments to aim for 10 percent or more in reductions. In February, the trustees directed the college to identify up to $12 million in savings or enhanced revenues, and mandated a full review of programs.
Reducing positions and cutting $8 million in expenses resulted in a balanced budget for fiscal years 2009-2010, 2010-2011, and 2011-2012. The admissions office met enrollment targets and yielded a highly qualified first-year class. In May, trustees approved the projected budget and the ad hoc budget planning committee’s recommendations for a new budget process and a set of basic operating principles for budget making.
The permanent Budget Committee’s goals are:
- Maintain the quality of Colorado College’s educational program
- Hold undergraduate enrollment target at 1,975
- Keep increase in cost of attendance as low as possible
- Provide enough financial aid to support current students and recruit an incoming class at least as talented and diverse as the present first-year class
- Retire all college debt as quickly as possible and in a time frame no longer than 15 years
- Provide compensation increases understanding that total compensation cannot increase faster than the increase in the rate of tuition because tuition pays approximately 3/4 of the cost of increases
- Provide the increases necessary to cover the continued decline in payouts from endowments due to the practice of 12-quarter averaging
Ashley said last year’s hard work and tough decisions have paid off. “We choked down the bitter pill, and as a result we have much more flexibility as to how we use our resources,” she said. She pointed out that other colleges instituted furloughs, did not hire new faculty, and overextended their financial aid resources to yield their incoming classes — at a level they won’t be able to sustain. None of those things happened at CC.
“We need to be grateful for our relatively strong resource base,” she said.
Be sure to check out the one-man show featuring collages by Dave Armstrong, CC’s director of information technology services, at The Bridge Gallery in the Depot Arts District, 218 West Colorado Ave. The show runs through Sunday, Dec. 20, and gallery hours are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and noon to 3 p.m. Sunday.
The Working Group on Staff Compensation and Classification, a group formed this year, presented a concept for one part of staff compensation in a Staff Council Hot Topics open session on Dec. 16. The group is seeking staff input on the concept, which would apply a fixed cost of basic goods and services — rather than a percentage – as part of staff salary increases. Working group presenter Chad Schonewill said the concept is aimed at reducing a widening gap between lowest and highest salaries, improving fairness, aligning with the college’s compensation philosophy and core values, and achieving sustainability.
View the PowerPoint presentation, video of the session and Staff Council minutes here. Staff Council is surveying session attendees to see if there is enough interest in the concept. If there is, the working group will pursue it further, Schonewill said.
The Bookstore Advisory Committee, working since September 2009 on the question of whether the CC bookstore operations should be outsourced or return to a self-operated model, on Dec. 10 presented a unanimous recommendation to President Celeste and Vice President for Finance and Administration Robert Moore in favor of outsourcing. The committee, which included faculty, staff and students, said:
“The committee unanimously recommends that the college negotiate an outsource contract with Barnes and Noble or Validis. These two companies appear to be more flexible in their ability to respond to our needs, and more likely to provide a good fit with CC. Follett’s service over the last eighteen months is appreciated and we expect they will work with us in the transition to a new management.”
Read about the goal of a “uniquely Colorado College bookstore,” the committee’s process and its recommendation here. Follett’s support-services agreement is scheduled to continue until late January.
Colorado College has received more than $2.3 million from the James W. Austin Charitable Remainder Unitrust, which will go toward a scholarship fund providing unrestricted financial aid. The donation is the single largest life income gift in the history of Colorado College.
The funds will establish the James W. and Esther Austin Scholarship Fund, in memory of Austin and his wife. James W. Austin graduated in 1929 from Colorado College with a degree in geology.
The gift to fund the Unitrust was originally made in 1993. Austin received monthly payments from his Unitrust until his death in 1997; payments then went to beneficiaries, the last of whom died in August 2009. The remaining principal and interest of the Unitrust will now go to Colorado College to establish the scholarship fund.
Austin was an alumni trustee at Colorado College from 1958-60. He was awarded CC’s Louis Benezet Award in 1991 for outstanding professional achievements.
Colorado College students Nicole Laniohan ’09 and Nguyen Nguyen ’11 took first prize for the best undergraduate poster presentation at the Rocky Mountain Branch meeting of the American Society for Microbiology. Laniohan and Nguyen, who worked with CC Associate Biology Professor Phoebe Lostroh, presented a poster on “Effects of Oxidative and Nitrosative Damaging Agents on Vibrio fischeri” in Denver in late November.
Vibrio fischeri are facultative light organ symbionts for specific squids and fishes. Strains isolated from one host species show adaptation to that host. In future experiments, Lostroh and the students plan to identify genes needed to detoxify various agents in a particular strain.
Susan Grace, lecturer and artist-in-residence with Colorado College’s music department, was honored at the ninth annual Pikes Peak Arts Council Awards for her work as music director of Colorado College’s Summer Music Festival.
Grace, who has served as music director of CC’s Summer Music Festival since 1989, received the “Vision, Courage and Achievement Award” on Sept. 20 at Colorado Springs’ Stargazers Theater.
In April Grace received a Pikes Peak Arts Council “Force for the Arts” award, which celebrates Colorado Springs community members who contribute to the arts in education. She is a member of the Quattro Mani piano duo and a 2005 Grammy nominee for her work on George Crumb’s “Ancient Voices of Children.”
Colorado College Education Professor Mike Taber has been elected president of the National Association of Geoscience Teachers. Taber, who is director of the secondary teaching program and director of the environmental program at CC, will serve as president for a year. He was formally inducted at the Geological Society of America meeting held in Portland, Ore., in mid-October. The National Association of Geoscience Teachers works to raise the quality of and emphasis on teaching the geosciences at all levels.
Two Colorado College students have been awarded Gilman Scholarships for study abroad. Anjali Desai ’12 will study Spanish in Salamanca, Spain, for six weeks next summer, where she will live with a family. Nguyen Nguyen ’11 will study at the University of Botswana during the spring semester. She will take courses in political science, history, and Setswana, the local language. She also will be working on a yet-to-be-determined independent research project.
The Gilman Scholarship Program offers awards for undergraduate study abroad. The program, established by the International Academic Opportunity Act of 2000, allows undergraduate students who are receiving Federal Pell Grant funding to participate in study-abroad programs worldwide.