I wanted to acknowledge the good news recently received about Standard & Poor’s upgrading the College of DuPage bond rating from “AA” to “AA+” and affirmed its rating outlook of “stable” on the College’s outstanding general obligation bonds. It is a notable achievement in an era, particularly in Illinois, where few institutions of higher learning can only dream of having even one A letter beside their name.
While an argument might be sustained that the visitation of probation that prompted the down-grading really had nothing to do with the actual financial health of COD, it is gratifying nonetheless to see its return up the ladder. Though I am moved to point out that what provoked the ire of the HLC in those days did not include non-compliant syllabi. On the latter, I think you will hear at some point this evening some encouraging news re the audit.
But I will stick to a financial theme as I note item 8 in tonight’s agenda, APPROVAL: Tuition and Fees Effective Fall 2018 Term.
As the information supplied in the packet demonstrates, COD has had an exemplary record in its tuition rate since 2015 (how many colleges can boast of a negative increase in these challenging times?). During this era, COD moved from the top of the table to below midpoint. However, at some point, as the cost curve inches inexorably up, increasing revenue becomes inevitable. The modest $1 seems entirely reasonable.
What makes this proposed increase more palatable is the evolution of the board’s attitude towards the reserve fund. No longer is it referred to as the “rainy day” fund for rains that will never come (at least in recent memory), and no longer is it treated as something sacrosanct. We note a logical rationalization of the allocations and a willingness to put part of it to productive use.
I would only advocate that, as the plan to generate revenues evolves, the burden fall not only on the fee payers but equally on the community that benefits from our services and even beyond in any creative ways possible.
Good evening. Tonight we congratulate our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the packet, and we recognize the creativity and productivity of our colleagues whose sabbaticals are listed for approval. It is the culmination of a rigorous and collaborative process, and it is part of what makes COD a great incubator for teaching and learning.
Great teaching and learning requires careful budgeting, of course, and we respect the process behind the proposed $1 increase in student tuition for Fall 2018. But parallel to such necessary increases, we encourage stakeholders at the College to examine and champion initiatives that could help students manage the cost of college, including an institutional effort to engage with and support the use of Open Educational Resources (OER) and a deliberate strategy to address and resolve the chronic and systematic under-funding of higher education in our state over the course of several decades. These efforts, in concert, might send the message that we are working on every front, as a College, to address costs for students with imagination and foresight. COD offers an important public good within our district, and a global point of view would focus on sustainable and effective public policies around resources for that public good.
Good evening. Just a few brief comments. Item 7.a under resignations, I wanted to acknowledge our colleague’s Gary Roby resignation this coming May. Gary has been here too few years but in that time has made considerable contributions to the chemistry discipline and the college in general. He has been recognized as outstanding divisional faculty member.
Further, under item 8.o retirements, I wanted to acknowledge the contributions of three faculty members, David Ficht and Bea Jaynes in mathematics and Robert Nichols in Computer Information. Collectively, they have contributed over 53 years’ service.
I also note the impending retirement of one Charles (Chuck) Currier at the end of June. Chuck is the longest serving senior administrator in the Cabinet and I could say we go back a long way. I wanted to acknowledge Chuck’s service to the college in all things computational. He has always been someone willing to have a conversation to discuss issues.
Under item 6, I am looking forward to the presentation on progress in mathematics being given by Professor Hill. Good to see in-depth work by faculty presented to the Board. While this work was and is intensively faculty-driven, I would like to recognize the administrative leadership of the math and natural sciences division in this project.
Good evening. Tonight we congratulate our colleagues whose retirements are listed in tonight’s packet. We also support the hard work of our faculty, administrators, and staff throughout the college (some of whom are presenting tonight) to improve our programs and plan for our probation-free future.
But we also grieve yet another school massacre in Florida yesterday. Words fail as we contemplate the violence perpetrated on educators and students in Parkland. Schools should be safe, but in America too often they aren’t.
On April 20th, a National Day of Action for Safe Schools will take place throughout the country, calling on Americans to march and compel action from legislators that improves the safety and security of students, via common sense gun control legislation, improving student access to mental health resources in our schools and prioritizing curriculum that develops student interpersonal communication skills. Students, education professionals, school boards, and community members must raise our voices and work against murder by guns in our schools.
Good evening and a somewhat belated Happy New Year.
One year ago the college welcomed 22 newly tenured faculty members at the January 19th board meeting. One year on, it is gratifying to see under Item 8.A in the consent agenda that our President recommends that 26 faculty members be granted tenure.
One year ago we were anticipating and discussing a number of changes and additions at COD: the reorganization of academic affairs into six divisions, the concomitant creation of several new discipline chairs, the expectation of new faces on the board of trustees in the April election. And of course the lingering uncertainty regarding HLC.
All these things came to pass and the uncertainty around HLC was mercifully vanquished. It would be appropriate to acknowledge the contribution of the Accreditation Task Force that earlier today was recognized with an I AM COD award. Congratulations to them – well deserved. Now the conversation has evolved into how do we respond to the demands that HLC has made of us when it withdrew the yoke. I see that as a lot healthier and more productive discussion, and one that we spent some of our Inservice day addressing. On that note, it was gratifying to see Trustees Fenne and Walker in attendance, and thank you for your commitment to our work.
On the one hand, the need to undertake activities and file reports to fulfill these HLC obligations could be seen as a massive inconvenience and drudgery; but on the other, that obligation encourages us to take a deeper and more authentic embrace of the kinds of assessment and analysis around curriculum, educational outcomes and program review that can only improve our work and the quality of education at COD. As we think about, reflect on, and respond to the likes of the Noel Levitz and CCSSE surveys, this can only be a good thing. Hopefully, next month we will have opportunity to share some of that work with you in more detail.
Good Evening and happy new year. We are glad to return for a new semester and we look forward to the start of classes and seeing our students on Monday. It is already turning into a busy semester, but we are optimistic that our work matters and that our expertise is respected and utilized for educational work, in all of its variety, at the College of DuPage.
We are glad to see our third-year colleagues recommended for tenure tonight. And we recognize our colleagues whose retirements are listed in the Board packet as well.
In retrospect, 2017 was a significant year of change at our school; the coming calendar year promises even more change. We hope, of course, that change is progress, and progress in the right direction. As scholars and educators, we are aware of how important it is to allow for time after intense change and learning to absorb what has come to pass. It is also essential to pause, reflect, and evaluate, especially in order to understand and ensure that we agree we’re on the right track in so many ways. As teachers, we know that a timeline is a good organizational tool, but it can be hypothetical, and if the material isn’t mastered, it’s usually necessary to regroup and allow more time for study.
Our wish this year is that organizational change is made through dialogue, deliberate collaboration, and honest conversation about real students, as they are, in all of their variety at our school. As we’ve learned over and over in the past several years, complicated problems require complicated solutions. So here’s to complexity in 2018.
As the curtain closes on another year, it is hard to avoid resorting to clichés of the kind I just used. So no more of those. It has been a busy year, and one with perhaps a few more challenges than I might have expected when it began lo these many months.
This evening you will hear a presentation on Pathways from Jane Smith. Pathways had entered my consciousness in early May. By October, Inservice was dedicated to it, and it had become a major conversation. I spoke then that CODFA leadership has encouraged our members to engage fully in this discussion. I can now tell you that the Faculty Senate has created nine research groups, that will involve a significant number of our members working with other constituencies in the college to examine many aspects of Pathways, with a view to providing recommendations as to how this initiative can move forward successfully. We were invited, even challenged, to participate, and we will. This work will be completed by the end of next term, and our plan is to tell you about it then.
You will also hear from Trustee Bennett in his report on the Board of Trustees Academic Committee about the work being done in regard to the HLC response. CODFA leadership contributed significantly in the report to this committee, which was concerned primarily with the syllabus compliance. We have committed to having syllabi for the spring semester posted by January 8th so that a preliminary audit of compliance can be completed prior to the official audit in February. I anticipate that the full board will be hearing more about our HLC activities in regards to assessment and outcomes in future months.
Nor have we been idle on the Noel Levitz front. A Senate task force has developed a set of questions that will guide its analysis of the data and requests for additional information as we attempt to probe the origins of the apparently problematic responses contained in that survey.
All this while we continue to teach our classes and engage in all the other normal activities of the faculty. I want to emphasize that we engage in these activities because, at the end of the day, we are dedicated to optimizing our students’ pathways to success.
This evening we congratulate our COD retirees; tonight’s list includes a former chair of the Faculty Welfare Committee and a former co-chair of bargaining. We thank them all for their service to our great public school and wish them the best.
It is the close of another semester, and we celebrate the accomplishments of our students. We also root for students who did not succeed in our classes, lamenting each piece of homework left incomplete, each paper or exam that misses the mark; despite the best efforts of a teacher, in the end, students are responsible for their own learning and individual agency within a given classroom. Education professionals create the conditions of possibility. Students bring to bear their own creativity, curiosity, motivation, values, ethics, and sense of reciprocity and mutuality. At its best, college education is a site for shared labor and respect for the distinct but collaborative roles between students and teachers. It is meaningful work all around.
It is hard to create the conditions of possibility for college students at a time when higher education is under siege in America. This month alone, Congress proposed taxing graduate student tuition waivers, and the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act appears to include a redefinition of credit hours, the removal of student financial aid repayment benefits, and deregulation of online and for-profit providers. At a time when COD is working to repair its reputation and fulfill some fair but rigorous demands from its accrediting body, it feels like swimming against the rising tide.
At COD, we know all too well what it looks like when the worst thing happens, because it already did when we were placed on probation. Our work moving forward must continue to question: what did we learn from that, and how can we prevent it from happening again? The answer lies somewhere in the realm of collaboration and memory. And so we persist, in part because we believe in this project of public education and community good.
Two years ago faculty were horrified by the verdict of the HLC: probation for COD. It was a dark time and we are relieved probation has been lifted. Faculty did not cause the problems that lead to that determination; instead, we watched as the Board at that time played politics with our school.
Faculty are pleased and relieved that the efforts of the past months have resulted in a positive outcome and we are off probation.
Tonight it seems worth pointing out that the HLC response team was a very multidisciplinary group of education professionals. It included faculty and adminstrators; they used multiple methods and drew many people into the process to research facts and collaborate around their report and their decision. It was, in fact, a good model of collaboration between faculty and administration, and one we should look to as we are moving forward in taking on new challenges at COD, in the sense that while we continue to respond to HLC challenges, we have also spent time this semester exploring a Pathways theory for COD.
The Faculty Senate hopes to move forward with Pathways in partnership and collaboration with administration and staff at COD. We hope that leadership for this effort will emerge organically from the process of researching the needs of our students. The aim of the Pathways Theory is to create structures within which students find their way and thrive on the road to reaching their own goals.
With that value in mind, we do well to celebrate that COD is a comprehensive community college and we offer a comprehensive transfer-focused and transfer-driven curriculum that is side by side with our excellent offerings in vocational, technical, and career areas, and our size and scope is part of what makes COD a special place for students to go to school. That collaboration between the administration, staff and the faculty has to be based on understanding the equal importance of transfer curriculum alongside career and technical programs.
It is clear we all have a lot to learn and discuss.
Obviously the news that circulated earlier this week that the Higher Learning Commission had officially removed the yoke of probation from the college’s shoulders was very gratifying. No need at this point to revisit the past, but I did want to acknowledge the work of our board, our president, particularly Jim Benté, along with members of our faculty and staff for putting in the work on the narrative report. I know that we have our issues to address, and that we will do in a thorough and professional manner.
I did want to make a comment on item 4.q in the consent agenda: tax levy resolution. As I understand it, the resolution calls for a levy of $81.7 MM for the current year, which is $1 MM more than 2016, which I calculate to be an increase of 1.23 %. The CPI is quoted as 2.1 %, so this resolution leaves about $695 K in the taxpayers’ pockets. Doubtless, the accounting staff are poised to correct my mistakes in any of this math stuff. Granted, the $1 MM is substantially more than the frozen levy of last year, but that $695 K will not be collected this year and every year hereafter – in perpetuity as a former president was wont to say.
To be consistent, I acknowledge that, in the past, CODFA leadership questioned the magnitudes of the annual tax levies and the arguments then used to support them, the net result being large surpluses that brought us the giddy fund balance. Sound financial management you could argue. And we have since advocated that some part of that surplus should be used to compensate students and community members through maintaining tuition and the tax levy. And, indeed the tuition has remained constant, putting COD in the middle of the pack in that regard.
However, the days of the big surpluses are gone, and the cost curve trends ever upward. At some point it becomes sound practice to bring revenue generation up to a par with that cost curve. Who knows to what low value the CPI might fall in future years to reduce the ability to raise the levy.