Thursday, May 9, 2013

PANIC: New Budget Cuts

There has been a lot of discussion the past week or two regarding the lack of "new student college deposits."

Vocabulary
New Student College Deposit - n - a $500 deposit that students pay to the school, showing their intent to attend St. Mary's. A student who makes this deposit generally attends the school, but some may "melt" and never attend.

The Issue
These deposits are a really good indicator of how many students are actually going to show up in August. This year the school got a lot of applications (in part due to the new Common Application, which makes applying to SMCM as easy as "checking a box") and the college accepted a good number of students. The issue is that not enough students have "accepted" St. Mary's as their choice, resulting in a lower than expected number of "new student college deposits."

Apparently this shortfall comes in the form of about 150~ less deposits than previous years (including last year, which already had a shortfall). The school was looking for around 124~ more in-state and 24~ more out of state students to submit these "new students college deposits," indicating their intent to attend SMCM.

The fallout
This represents, according to indicators, a budget shortfall of approximately $3.5Million.

(Math? 150~ x $23,000 = $3,500,000~)

This is, obviously, a lot of money. And it is going to have a big impact on several areas of campus (more on that later~) and departments and positions. Faculty and Staff had meetings this week where they were briefed with this new information, which has obviously upset many. The new budget (one where $3.5Million has been cut) is being taken to the Board of Trustees this Friday.

How did this happen?
Apparently (according to Anonymous [still don't know who that dude is but they seem to have a lot of opinions]) Urgo has blamed the lack of enrollment on "failures of facilities and faculty curriculum, but it has nothing to do with changes to admissions in the past two years." Could this be the ghost of Rich Edgar, haunting admissions and causing this to happen? Could this be the result of sacking Rich Edgar and Lisa Crowe last year?

"Failures of facilities and faculty curriculum" seems like a tough sell (hello, let's also take a moment to recognize that this quote may not necessarily be accurate nor correct). When students apply to a college, how much do they look into the specifics of the faculty and curriculum? I feel that there is only so much that a prospective student can know without actually sitting in on a classroom, which very few do (or maybe a lot do this, IDK). Does "the failures of facilities" refer to the various mold incidents over the past years (really decades...)? The "Mold Ship" got SMCM a ton of press #allpressisgoodpress.

What about admissions then? According to students working at the admissions office some "early admission" (I did this!) prospective students received their letters of admission until later than usual. Additionally, these students have stated that "counselors have been encouraged to go to private institutions rather than public."

But why? Could it be at the request of Maureen Silva, new (2010) Vice President for Advancement (AKA fundraising) for the college? It's no secret that more rich people go to private high schools, and rich people are probably more likely to give money to the college. Could this shift be part of this issue?

Theory: More public high school students view SMCM as a reach school, whereas more private high school students view SMCM as a safety school. This could explain the lack of students accepting their admission into SMCM. But this is just a theory, one based in stereotypes and assumptions.

Impact
So what does this impact? A lot of things. Less money means smaller budgets. According to the same Anonymous from above (who appears to be "in the know") and other "sources"the following may be cut
  • No new staff positions
  • No visiting professors
  • No sabbaticals 
  • Boyden Gallery will be closed 
  • No cost of living adjustments for staff
  • Staff job cuts
  • Other cuts that will be made throughout the summer
 And a staff that once again feels like they have very little input.

Solution
Is there a solution? Maybe "don't fix what ain't broke" #southernsayings. 

The faculty is obviously upset. They want to delay the voting so that there can be faculty input.

Something clearly went wrong here.

You should be
Mad? Scared? Angry? Disappointed. This is all really disappointing and I hope it does not lead to further big changes. I really just want an explanation.

Note:
This is long. I did not proofread. Some of this information may be inaccurate. Comment with thoughts, corrections, etc. <3 br="">

46 comments:

  1. I'll offer corrections!!

    1) We sent out our letters to admitted students at the same time we've done it every year (mid-late April).
    2) There is a supplement as part of the application that is St. Mary's specific. Granted, its not time consuming, but its not just "clicking a box."
    3) We do have some students who visit that sit in on a class as part of their visit, but it is a very small % of students that apply or enroll. Any senior, with an appropriate amount of notice, can arrange a class visit or meeting with faculty members.
    4) I haven't heard any messages regarding private vs public. Most private schools have more endowment $$, scholarships and can "discount" tuition, so it may look like a better bargain to go there even if its the exact same price, or close. The college used to print budget worksheets that we shared with visiting students and families.
    5) Rich and Lisa are dearly missed in this office and at this college.

    From, a friend of the blog who knows things about admissions because I work there!

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    1. Thanks for the corrections and feedback <3 <3 <3

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  2. You got the jist of it.

    Urgo DID try to spread the blame around to the curriculum, Admit Day, the grounds crew, anyone except where the target clearly is - Pat Goldsmith. Perhaps this is because of getting rid of Rich Edgar, but even so, if they'd replaced him with someone who was just as passionate about SMCM and was as good of a salesman, we wouldn't be in this predicament. Rich also knew how to motivate his staff to get out there and beat the bushes for applicants, whereas Pat sits behind her desk and no one much cares for her, like, at all.

    Admissions HAS to have known about this for MONTHS - it's not like on May 1 somebody suddenly goes, "Gee, it looks like we're about 150 students short this year. How the heck did that happen LOL?" Funny how the news didn't break until after classes were over, though.

    Staff are both scared and pissed. Faculty are pissed. They've already come up with a "framework" for a new budget with ZERO input from anyone else on campus (including students).

    So loss of lines, potential loss of jobs/raises, budget cuts... how will ol' Jurgo survive this? One has serious doubts...

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    1. You bring up an interesting point about how this will affect Urgo's standing

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    2. I predict him and Pat are both gone by Monday.

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    3. Urgo needs to go. He's needed to go since day one.

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  3. Thanks for summarizing and reporting on this. (You scooped Point News via it's gone for the summer!)

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    1. The Point News is as dead as the trees it is printed on

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  4. The only reason I applied to SMCM was of Rich Edgar!! Well before I knew anything about the school at least.

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  5. and we were all so excited about jurgo...

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    1. "We got to drink beer at the President's house!" - Every senior

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    2. He pissed away any goodwill he had pretty quickly.

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  6. What would I do without SMCMLOL to give me the inside scoop!
    #kenisbetterthanwoodwardandbernstein

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    1. Will you be my deepthroat ;) ;) ;)

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  7. I'll be darned. You fire the best head of admissions the College has ever seen and replace him with an untalented crony, and admissions plummet. Who says nepotism doesn't get results?

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    1. And the fact that Urgo is trying to spread the blame around and protect those he brought in just proves how bad it really is.

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  8. Couple things:


    -We are certainly not the only college this is happening to this year.

    -From what I hear there is definitely a staff hiring freeze in effect.

    -We've extended the deadline for deposits and whatnot until August and that will probably help a tiny bit but not all that much

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    1. Could you cite some other colleges where this is happening? Not disagreeing just (bi)curious~

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    2. It's happening at a few other colleges, yes, but it's not like it's an epidemic that we couldn't avoid. Urgo's trying to blame the economy and that just doesn't hold water.

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  9. You are spot on regarding the firing of Rich Edgar having a major impact...

    Also, parents do not see the return on investment. Look at the Career Center--they do NOTHING to help with bringing recruiters to campus/placing students in well paying, major-related jobs. Almost every other comparable college has their students interviewing and placed well before graduation. In this economy, this matters. St Mary's has great faculty and outstanding students--and as students move toward graduation, they get no help from the school. Big failure and it does not go unnoticed.

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    1. This is an interesting point that has not been raised previously. Does anyone else have any thoughts/opinions on the effectiveness of the career center?

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    2. As an alumna ('10) who tried to use the Career Center to find a post-graduation job/get help with grad school applications, I can confirm that they do nothing to help students. The Careers counselor's only suggestions during our hour-long meeting was to pull up Idealist and Monster.com.

      Having since attended graduate school and worked at several other higher education institutions, I now realize just how much of a disadvantage SMCM students have when going out into the workforce. Other institutions not only have company recruiters on campus throughout the year, they also hold mandatory resume reviews, networking workshops, etc. for all graduating seniors. Moreover, Career Services, rather than the individual departments (as seemed to be the case while I was a student at SMCM), was responsible for bringing in alumni to speak to current students about the career options available for their majors.

      In an economy where simply having a BA does not guarantee that your resume gets a second glance from hiring managers, it is now more important than ever that students have concrete career support before they enter the job market. Simply pulling up Monster.com and saying 'good luck' is not going to impress prospective students into shelling out $23,000 per year, especially when SMCM's competitors can offer so much more.

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    3. So what's the solution? Oh, yeah - cut staff jobs. That'll help.

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    4. To the alumna: as a current student, I can tell you that since you left there is a new direct of the Career Development Center who has improved her office by leaps and bounds. I can give only the highest praise to Dr. Van Abbema for working to connect students with as broad of a network of effective resources as possible.

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    5. I have to disagree. It has not changed in a decade. Tell me how many seniors you know that got good jobs through the college career center efforts this year--I don't know a single one. In fact I don't many that have a job except hourly wage jobs not requiring a degree.

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    6. I've come down to SMCM at request of the CDC and Dana to help with panels in the last year (as an alumnae) and personally gotten three different graduates employed at a great company, full-time, benefits, the works. I know of a lot of other students who networked themselves into interviews as well.

      Only works if you work it.

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  10. If you are a student and are concern about this, you should go to the open Board Meeting today (Friday, May 10th) at 3:00 pm in Glendening Annex....

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  11. This is actually the first "PANIC" that actually has me seriously panicked/enraged. I find it contemptible that administration seems incapable of even entertaining the idea that they may have been wrong, and instead would begin to point fingers at the hard-working and chronically underpaid faculty and staff while their pockets get fatter. ST. MARY'S SHOULD BE BETTER THAN THIS.

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  12. If they suspected we might fall short on enrollment, why did we freeze tuition at the same time? I know that's not a popular option, but I'm surprised they would go close one option for revenue at the same time that they knew they might not reach enrollment targets. Weird.

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    1. Because Admissions didn't tell anyone enrollment was coming up short, even though it's obvious they knew for MONTHS. So the two issues were completely unrelated - we wanted lower tuition to attract students, but then we weren't attracting students because Admissions fell down on the job. The tuition freeze came well before they finally let everyone know we were in a crisis, and by then it was far too late.

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    2. Yep. The Maryland General Assembly gave the College more money to freeze tuition. If I understand correctly, the additional public funding was contingent on a tuition freeze.

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  13. Horrible, uninformative staff meeting this morning. Some good questions but pathetic answers. Jurgo does not know how to handle a hostile crowd.

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    1. Please elaborate. Thanks!

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    2. Jurgo kept saying "it's only 5% of the budget" but fails to recognize how damaging that 5% is going to be given where it's being cut from (i.e., salaries, jobs, important budget needs, etc.). Pat couldn't even answer simple questions about her proposed "sequestration scholarship," and even THE DIRECTOR OF FINANCIAL AID called her out on it! They say everything's "moving very quickly," but their communication skills are for crap. And Urgo is really, really poor performance wise in front of a hostile audience - moments of dead silence because he couldn't think of an answer.

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  14. Speaking for a group of fellow alums, we were puzzled as to why we first found about about this on facebook. We want to let the administration know we are concerned we were not informed of the situation (when it was clearly in the works for quite some time) and also to offer our help.

    So, anybody know of a faculty member who may be able to help us pass along the message?

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    1. Preferably someone tenured? :D

      We have about 40 co-signers right now.

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    2. Actually it's been in the works for quite some time, but the campus just found out about it, too, so you're almost in the same boat.

      However, letting the administration know how alumni feel is important. I'd suggest reaching out to some of the voices we've heard so far from the faculty - Dave Kung, for example. Also check with Alex Walls, who was the student trustee and just graduated.

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  15. As a parent of two boys who have applied to SMCM, here are my comments:

    Five years ago, my older son (big brother) applied to SMCM and was offered a very NICE scholarship package. Although he chose to attend a large university, he highly recommended his little brother to apply and attend. Why? It is because Rich Edgar and his staff really made an impression on the “big brother”. I also remember our conversation with Prof Wesley Jordan who was the Dean of Admission at the time (not certain). Wesley was less of a salesman, but he very helpful in answering my son's questions.

    Last summer (2012), my younger son (little brother) attended the Open House at SMCM. We noticed something was different. At the time we did not know about the reorganization and Rich Edgar has been fired. Edgar's replacement just did not have the enthusiasm. What we heard was the same message we heard from the other schools; nothing stood out. It is hard to describe, but we left wondering about the visit. It was not until a week ago that we read in Washington Post about the drastic changes in the Admission office and (learn from Google) the turmoil that had started back in July 2012.

    By August of this year (2013), my younger son will be attending a private liberal arts college (not SMCM).

    We had hoped that both or one of our boys would attend St. Mary's. It did not happen. My wife and I REALLY like the school. In retrospect given all of the changes and potential cuts to the liberal arts program, it is probably best that our younger son is going elsewhere. A drastically reduced liberal arts curriculum is not much of a liberal arts program.
    BTW - From what I could read, Urgo's admission strategy is to recruit more students from private high school. Both of our kids attended private school all of their life. What an irony.


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  16. Trustees meet next Tuesday in a closed-door session for "personnel matters," then an all-staff meeting next Wednesday about budget details. THESE ARE IMPORTANT OMG, not the least reason being we'll likely be out an Admissions director, if not a president.

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    1. Please post as things unfold...

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    2. Rumor is Pat is gone, and Urgo chose not to resign, so he's being canned ("contract not renewed"). Confirmation will likely come at the staff meeting tomorrow.

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    3. Is there any chance that Rich Edgar might be brought back? This would restore my faith in St Mary's

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    4. Well now of course Urgo really is gone. More to come tomorrow.

      Rich is doing consulting work right now, so he's available. Asking him back though might not really be a realistic possibility. Same for Wes Jordan - he's on faculty, but probably wouldn't want to step back into this minefield. Having either back, though, would be a stupendous step. :)

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