TO: All VCCS Employees
FROM: Glenn DuBois
DATE: Wednesday, August 25, 2010
RE: Rethinking our community colleges with a student-first focus

Dear Colleague:

I hope you had an enjoyable summer and that you are as excited about this new school year as I am! While many people make their resolutions in January, the start of a new academic year always feels more like the real beginning of the year.

The reengineering taskforce that has been working to rethink the way our colleges operate has released a draft agenda of ideas to pursue over the coming months and years. I am excited to update you on this work and to invite you to attend one of the regional town hall meetings that I will be hosting in September. Working together, we must ensure that our community colleges have a student-first focus and are ready to serve the needs of 21st century students.

Your perspective, ideas and experience will be essential to our success.

Your contributions have already been helpful. To date, you have visited the reengineering website at http://rethink2.wpengine.com thousands of times. You have sent in nearly 200 responses to my emails – responses that are brimming with passion and good ideas that have helped guide and shape the following draft ideas the taskforce has created.

A Change Agenda with a Student-First Focus

  • Strengthen and Diversify the VCCS Resource Base
    Adhere to implementation of the six year financial plan adopted by the State Board for Community Colleges; pursue an aggressive strategy to increase the proportion of students receiving financial aid including streamlining processing of financial aid; provide professional development and other services to college foundations to increase their capacity in resource development; leverage workforce development and continuing education programs as revenue producing functions; pursue opportunities to expand relationships with business and industry; pursue external funding opportunities through grants and contracts; leverage the use of strategic financing mechanisms and proven strategies such as performance contracting.
  • Developmental Education Redesign
    Redesign developmental mathematics, reading and writing in order to enhance student success; implement the recommendations of the Developmental Education Task Force; and take steps to prevent the need for remediation by working with local school divisions to improve the college readiness of high school graduates.
  • Centralizing “Back-Office” Functions of Financial Aid
    Centralize the student financial aid “back office” processes of the 23 colleges at Tidewater Community College to provide greater individualized service to students, improve student affordability and access, and reduce the processing costs per student. 
  • Course Redesign
    Employ the faculty peer group structure to redesign the top 25 high enrollment courses with the goals of improving student learning outcomes and reducing costs.
  • Leverage VCCS Purchasing Volume
    Leverage the purchasing volume of the VCCS and increase operational efficiencies to provide significant cost savings.
  • Expand the Teaching Faculty Employment Spectrum
    Develop and implement four new faculty position options to provide needed flexibility for college management of faculty resources, including Contracted Adjunct, Half-time Teaching Faculty, Lecturer, 10-11 month Teaching Faculty and Master Teacher.
  • Automate and Outsource Student Success Solutions
    Redesign the delivery of selected services to students such that those functions are most effective and delivered in the most cost efficient manner, including ideas such as automation solutions for course planning and academic advising, early alert and student intervention tracking, appointment scheduling, transfer planning, graduation application and access to high school transcripts, as well as outsourcing of tutoring and processing of transcript requests.
  • Develop Workforce Services Online Registration System
    Acquire and implement an automated registration, enrollment and tracking system for open enrollment, community service and employer contract training courses in order to provide the functionality needed to reduce staffing costs and support growth in workforce services.
  • Shared Services – Distance Learning System
    Offer a distance learning system to smaller VCCS colleges, that will expand their capacity for greater student access and comprehensive course offerings through a shared services arrangement with Northern Virginia Community College, sharing both FTE and tuition revenues.
  • Create a Culture of Innovation Through Technology
    Develop a dynamic strategic planning process to achieve a culture of innovation through the use of technology in order to promote student success and more effective and efficient use of scarce resources, including more strategic use of the Technology Council, implementation of a robust decision support system, pursuit of shared service opportunities across the system, better use of specialized strengths and talents of individual colleges and aggressive identification of appropriate and cost-effective new innovations.
  • Foster a Culture of “Managing with Productivity in Mind”
    Develop and implement a productivity management education program that encourages college to “manage with productivity in mind” through a deeper understanding of how and why decisions impact productivity and college costs.
  • Expand Opportunities for Development of Consortia
    Modify the current process for new program planning to encourage the exploration of consortia program possibilities in order to increase opportunities to offer programs when and where they might not otherwise be feasible.
  • Conduct Credit Audit of Academic Programs
    Create an opportunity for colleges to review their curricula through a credit audit of their academic programs in order to determine whether the same program and general education outcomes could be achieved by students with fewer credits, thereby reducing time to degree for students and eliminating some tuition expense for students.

Join Me to Talk About These Ideas at a Town Hall Meeting

The regional town hall meetings I am hosting across the state in September will focus on ways to serve more students and to serve them better.

Here is the meeting schedule as it now stands:

Date Time College Location
Wednesday,
Sept. 1
9:00 – 10:30 am Virginia Highlands
Community College
Keyser-Aday Theatre
Tuesday,
Sept. 7
9:30 – 11:00 am John Tyler
Community College
Nicholas Student Center, Chester Campus
Tuesday,
Sept. 7
2:00 – 3:30 pm Tidewater
Community College
The Forum, Building A, Fred W. Beazley Portsmouth Campus
Wednesday,
Sept. 8
2:00 – 3:30 pm New River
Community College
Richardson Auditorium, Rooker Hall
Wednesday,
Sept. 8
9:30 – 11:00 am Central Virginia
Community College
Merritt Hall, Room 5122-25
Friday,
Sept. 17
9:30 -11:00 am Northern Virginia
Community College
Ernst Community Cultural Center
Annandale Campus
Friday,
Sept. 17
2:00 – 3:30 pm Germanna
Community College
Fredericksburg Campus,
Rooms 211, 212, and 213 – Dickenson Building
Monday,
Sept. 20
2:30 – 4:00 pm Blue Ridge
Community College
Plecker Center Auditorium
Thursday,
Sept. 23
2:30 – 4:00 pm James Monroe Building, Richmond Conference Rooms C-D-E

Reengineering Q&A

The Q&A section of these emails remains popular.  So, let’s look into the mailbag once again.

Accessing financial aid is harder than it has to be. “I recently found myself increasingly frustrated when calling our financial aid office for my 21 year-old son,” wrote a professor from Northern Virginia Community College.  “I found two campuses where no one answered the phone and to which I wasn’t referred to a voice mail.  I sent in a website inquiry, which took 2 weeks to get a response.”

In my experience, our financial aid offices are staffed with good people who work hard. That said, our current structure is insufficient for the number of students we serve and must change. How many parents and students at your college, or even throughout the state, share your frustration? The answer is probably far too many.

What about evening and weekend financial aid office hours? “It seems that the financial aid office hours do not suit parents who work during the day. This might force them to not seek out the help needed for their child to go to [college],” wrote an employee at Central Virginia Community College. “There might be a time to start offering weekend counseling along with financial aid office hours.”

One of the taskforce recommendations that I am most excited about is centralizing the “back-office” functions of financial aid.  This means, to me, liberating the financial aid employees we have to focus solely on the people we serve.  So many opportunities can be opened up.

Positioning our teachers for greater success. “Maybe it is time to rethink what the role of F/T faculty should be,” writes an instructor from Germanna Community College. “Maybe we need to become F/T adjunct coaches, who are assigned a cohort of adjuncts, and whose job it is to observe, coach and teach them to be quality instructors who deliver material that meets the student learning outcomes.”

“The idea of splitting a full-time position between two nearby colleges might work well,” wrote an instructor at Virginia Western Community College.

“Can [we] get rid of the artificial limit on the number of semester hours an adjunct can teach?  I think this limitation is very arbitrary.  If an adjunct’s evaluations are good, why can’t he teach as many classes as he wants?” wrote a teacher at Northern Virginia Community College.

It is fair to question, as the reengineering taskforce has, whether the roles we now have for faculty members fit the needs of our students and colleges.  Is it time for a wider spectrum of job titles and responsibilities among our faculty?  Can we put our instructors in a better position so that they and their students experience greater success?  I believe we can and I suspect that the discussion around this recommendation and any possible future implementation will be lively.

I will continue to email you throughout the process to ensure that you understand the needs behind this work.  And I invite you to email me with thoughts or questions you may have about it.  The email address for that (an email address that comes directly to me) is rethink@vccs.edu. I will pass along interesting thoughts to the appropriate taskforce members and may even discuss them with you and our colleagues in a future email message.

Thank you for your ideas and thoughts for this process and thank you for your hard work every day at your community college.

Sincerely,

Signature

Glenn DuBois

P.S. – I look forward to seeing you at one of our Town Hall meetings.

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