‘Vision 2020’ Plan Features New Programs, Student-Centered Upgrades and Cost Containment Measures

July 27, 2017

Wilmington College is in the final stages of implementing its strategic plan, which is designed to better position itself in the dynamic higher education environment as the institution approaches its 150th anniversary in 2020.

A highlight of the plan, known as “Vision 2020 Sustainability,” features such new academic and co-curricular programs as an occupational therapy major and a master’s degree in athletic training. These will build upon the recent completion of two major facilities and the success of signature programs in the sciences and sport sciences.

Also, among other intentions, the College will upgrade student housing, expand sports offerings and enhance recreational opportunities for students, while, in addition, streamline areas of its operational structure to better meet current educational demands.

The latter initiative will involve reduction of force, something the College has intentionally avoided over the years but feels it now must face in order to move forward. Fifteen positions from across the campus are being eliminated, five of which are open and will not be filled and 10 that will result in current employees facing layoffs.

President Jim Reynolds said this is an especially difficult action in such a close campus community as WC, but stressed it is necessary to help ensure the institution’s fiscal viability as it moves forward.

“These reductions in force are in no way based upon individuals’ performance — these employees have performed admirably and my heart goes out to them,” Reynolds said. “Rather, it’s about creating a sustainable business model that will allow us to provide students with the best possible educational experience while remaining financially stable.”

Other cost containment measures include establishing more cost-conscious policies, deferring some physical plant maintenance and restructuring marketing expenses.

The president stressed the College remains steadfast in its support for students’ needs.

“Students will find this plan will result in additional academic, co-curricular and leisure time opportunities for them,” he added.

Reynolds explained the College’s financial condition is sound — indeed, WC possesses a “solid endowment and asset portfolio.” At issue regarding the position cuts is a protracted cash flow dilemma caused by “an operational structure that is larger than needed to meet current educational demands.”

For the past 18 months, a work group including the president, senior administrators and members of the Board of Trustees, met regularly to evaluate the operational structure and create a sustainable business model. The group deemed some positions as no longer required in the new structure while some components of those positions will be added to others’ jobs or handled as part of student employment opportunities.

This chronic financial deficiency was offset for many years by earnings from such external College programs as the now-defunct correctional education and the Cincinnati Branch. In the latter’s heyday of the 1980s and 90s, it was essentially the only evening degree completion program catering to working adults in greater Cincinnati — today there are three dozen, yet WC’s two satellite programs in Cincinnati continue to serve students.

Wilmington is not alone in its necessity to restructure. Colleges and universities across the country are dealing with major factors affecting the number of potential students. These are exacerbated by the state’s trend of producing 5 to 7 percent fewer high school graduates than during the last decade.

Small independent colleges are especially vulnerable to feeling this pinch, as nearly a third of all schools in the United States like Wilmington College operated with a deficit last year. One need only look at recent headlines throughout Ohio involving other schools.