Saturday, Oct. 28, Elizabethtown College’s Board of Trustees held a meeting to discuss matters handled within the individual committee meetings the night prior.
To kick off the meeting, professor of chemistry and Dean for Academic Affairs and Faculty Development Dr. Kristi A. Kneas introduced the new faculty members at the College to the Board.
Kneas then continued by giving a debriefing of faculty service in numerous areas in and outside of the classroom. She covered how the faculty had been encouraging the development of soft skills and leadership within students to better prepare them for the workforce, whether it be through classroom endeavors or extracurricular activities.
Once Kneas finished giving an overview of faculty service, the floor opened for committee chairs to discuss what they have been working on since the Board last convened.
The financial committee presented their findings to the Board, and they discussed how the College’s total assets have increased by $10 million, with a 10.5 percent return on investment.
They said net tuition income for the College has dropped, but gifts and grants to Etown have increased.
They expressed concern about the endowment fund. Since it will not grow as originally expected, spending and cash flow must be moderated in consideration of the endowment fund’s growth. Additionally, the financial committee expressed desire to increase the campaign goal for 2020 from $50 million to $60 million.
Discussion then moved towards capital projects the College will be taking on in the future. A great focus was the new Bowers Center for Sports, Fitness and Wellness, which will be added by Wolf Field.
The new Bowers Center will include a café, a demonstration kitchen, a new practice gymnasium, strength and conditioning areas and numerous other features. The construction will start in 2018 and the Bowers Center is projected to be open for student use in August 2019. The cost of constructing the new Bowers Center is around $24 million.
The next subject of discussion covered concerns about the occupational therapy (OT) major. Yields for potential majors of first-year students, as well as yields for returning students to the major, have increased. This puts the College into a difficult situation.
Because of the accreditation, the College cannot exceed a 25 percent growth rate of the program without acquiring a review from the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE). The yields for Fall 2017 have put the College over the 25 percent growth rate.
More complications continue to rise with the occupational therapy major due to the unprecedented yields of students. New faculty must be hired to fit the demands of having such a large cohort of students.
Additionally, since ACOTE now mandates a doctoral degree, the OT program must be switched from a five-year degree to a six-year degree. A large concern across the Board and faculty is that the quality of the program will be sacrificed due to the quantity of students within the program.
As such, new faculty and resources must be acquired, which will cost the College a large amount of money. The discussions on the state of the occupational therapy program took up a large portion of the meeting, and this subject was debated the most between the trustees.
When the subject moved away from occupational therapy, the Board focused on the state of admissions. Because enrollment rates are dropping at the College, Admissions is putting new initiatives into place to attract more students to Etown.
Among these are the Blue Jays Fly Home program, where honors students will return to their high schools to talk about their Etown experiences. Admissions is also looking at other ways to appeal to prospective students, especially by encouraging visits to campus.
Committees were instructed to further explore the matters discussed in the meeting before the Board of Trustees reconvenes in the winter.