MCC Daily Tribune
President's Wednesday Message
There seems to be more misinformation than information floating around out there about the work MCC is doing with Gray Associates. My goal with this message is to put the facts out there and put some rumors to rest.
Why is MCC working with Gray Associates?
Enrollment at SUNY's community colleges has declined for eight consecutive years. Enrollment across the system's community colleges in 2018 was at the same level it was in 2002. This is not an issue impacting any one institution alone, but all. In part, enrollment continues to decline because of the economic recovery, record low unemployment, and declining Upstate population. MCC cannot control any of these factors, but there is still much we can do. We can better understand and act upon: the program interests of a changing student demographic; the program delivery models that would draw and retain adult students; and the ways in which MCC can reach students who no longer use traditional media. To achieve these goals, MCC contracted with Gray Associates.
What does Gray Associates do?
Gray Associates provides "program analytics and enrollment growth services." In real terms, this means the firm uses multiple data sets, including interviews with key stakeholders and market analysis, to identify programs, delivery strategies, student markets, and marketing/advertising strategies that could offer MCC the opportunity to grow enrollment. The firm focuses on mapping College programs to student market demand.
Wait, grow enrollment by adding or expanding programs? I heard Gray Associates was brought in to cut programs.
Yep, I've heard that, too. But, it's not true.
The detailed enrollment trends for existing programs are readily available to anyone at the College through Institutional Research, as are the enrollment trends for the corollary transfer programs within SUNY and the labor market information for related careers. So, let's be honest with each other: while such discussions are hard, it is not difficult to identify academic programs and majors for which student interest has already declined significantly and will likely continue to fall. We do not have to hire an external firm to tell us what programs are not viable, and moreover, we should not.
In the context of shared governance best practices, discussions about program viability need to be led by faculty. Over the past year, I asked that the Faculty Senate College Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE) subcommittee of the Curriculum Committee take up this issue. The Faculty Senate declined, advising that it felt the Curriculum Committee's program review process, which could result in deactivation, was sufficient to address program viability concerns. Respecting the voice of faculty in this matter, I have left that decision to the Faculty Senate. When questions about Gray Associates' role in program deactivation came up at last week's Faculty Senate meeting, I reinforced that such a process is a long one that requires faculty leadership.
As part of its market analysis, Gray Associates is likely to identify information that complements MCC's own data and supports the existing faculty-led decision-making process regarding program deactivation (in Gray Associates' terminology, "stop" programs). In other words, our work with the firm will support what we already know and already do. But as our lead from Gray Associates, Steve Probst, has shared: at community colleges, cutting programs does not save significant resources, and it certainly doesn't create new resources.
We can't cut our way to growth. And the goal of working with Gray Associates is to help us grow.
Okay, so once more, what will Gray Associates actually do?
The College is investing resources, including funding and significant employee time, with Gray Associates to help us increase enrollment by identifying programs to grow and start based on market demand analysis and employee input. You may have heard about the two-day workshop on May 22 and 23. The invitation list for this workshop includes faculty (including Faculty Senate and Faculty Association leadership), chairs, directors, and administrators. Those at the workshop will use the data gathered and the framework provided by Gray Associates to work together to achieve consensus on three lists of programs: start, grow, stop. Because of the reasons listed above and because enrollment growth is our goal, MCC's focus is on the start and grow lists.
Getting these lists is the first--not the final--step in the process. It takes resources, time, and collaboration across departments, faculty, and offices to start or grow programs; further work on priorities and timelines; and more. The two-day workshop calls on us to come together around data and analyses to think realistically about how MCC can reverse the current trend and grow enrollment: to work in this first step collaboratively as professionals invested in the future of our shared College.
Is Gray Associates doing anything else?
Yes, they are also contracted to develop a retention plan and to recommend marketing strategies for enrollment growth.
What if I have more questions?
Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Christine Casalinuovo-Adams is the lead for this project and is happy to talk with you.
Please share your thoughts on this project on the blog.
Office of the President