Aberdeen, WA – After a full review of the Grays Harbor College operation and financials, the local college received mostly positive remarks while some financial concerns were highlighted.
GHC was under review by an evaluation committee April 16-18 to conduct a “Mission Fulfillment and Sustainability evaluation” to look at the institution’s progress and plans related to enrollment, graduation, and loan default rates. This evaluation was requested by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU).
This evaluation follows a visit in 2014 to the campus.
GHC was granted initial accreditation in 1948.
During the recent evaluation, the committee compared documents and statements to confirm that they matched the mission statement. During the review, open meetings were held for faculty members, staff members, and students to voice their concerns or commendations.
During the evaluation, the committee compared documents and statements to confirm that they matched the mission statement. During the review, open meetings were held for faculty members, staff members, and students to voice their concerns or commendations.
Following a public records request, KXRO has reviewed the findings from the evaluation.
Concerns by the evaluation team include a number of finance related items. The team noted that the college has operated in a financial deficit for more than one year and is anticipating a significant deficit by the end of FY19, stating;
“Interviews with leadership suggest that strategies to manage the deficit are not defined. Evidence of comprehensive financial planning activities do not appear to exist. Stakeholders across campus are generally not well-informed about budget status and updates; some departments do not receive regular budget updates or year-to-date actuals throughout the fiscal year; some appear to spend funds that might not be available.”
The report states that GHC receives roughly 44-46 percent of its operational revenues through state appropriation and the state-set tuition rates creates some inflexibility in projecting revenue streams which vary from year to year. The suggestion is that the college consider budget scenario planning to try to anticipate future revenue streams.” It also states that college leadership indicated that the institution is using the financial reserve to maintain operations and anticipates another year of deficit spending.
These issues create a concern that “GHC has not developed procedures for comprehensive and multi-year financial planning and fiscal projections that would promote short-term solvency and anticipation of future liabilities”.
Following this concern, the evaluation team states that the college lacks comprehensive budget planning activities that consider non-tuition revenue sources.
They do note that efforts are being made to focus on revenue generation through increased enrollment.
Another concern includes the current and future potential of students going into default on payments.
“The Cohort Default Rate (CDR) was 24.8% in 2014 and has hovered in the 20% to 27.4% range for the previous five years. The College contracted with a consulting entity who followed up with students who were in default status, resulting in a lowered default rate for 2004-2009. However, since that time the CDR has again increased. Plans to manage the CDR include implementing a further financial literacy program next year, embedding more financial literacy in athletic and workforce programs, and conducting more in-person workshops.
Concern: The Evaluation Committee is concerned that the College has not developed a formal plan to decrease Cohort Default Rates.”
Later in the report, the evaluation team complemented the college on efforts to secure funding for students, acknowledging continued efforts to improve its processes to better serve students and said that the next cohort default rate is predicted to be significantly lower.
Other concerns include the fact that a number of students attend for specific re-training or classes and leave before obtaining their degrees.
“Many students attend the College for workforce or transfer credits, leaving GHC before completing a degree or course of instruction. GHC noted that about half of workforce students leave prior to completion, and about 55% of those “leavers” are employed within 9 months of separation.”
The college stated that they would look to other institutions and implement best practices to amend these concerns.
Another concern noted was in their Finance department, stating that the College has policies in place outlining a number of financial areas, although those policies have not been reviewed in several years, and in some cases for over ten years.
“The College is urged to expedite its review of its financial policies and procedures as some have not been updated in many years.”
The college met the criteria in the vast majority of evaluation areas, and was complemented on a number of items. This includes continuing education for the local area.
“The College’s thoughtful and strategic delivery of training to meet regional workforce needs area while balancing a changing job market is recognized.”
The Evaluation Committee found that Grays Harbor College is in the midst of relatively rapid changes in response to new leadership and regional demographic and workforce trends.
“The arrival of a new president and administrators has resulted in institutional transformation in a number of areas, including models of governance and development of operational procedures for assessment and planning.”
The highlight complement of the report is in regards to the regional higher-than-average unemployment rates, changing industry base, and the increase of Hispanic population, with the evaluation team stating that 40% of the Aberdeen’s K-8 students are Hispanic.
“Within this context, GHC stands out as a beacon of economic development, community support, and intellectual/artistic endeavors. As examples, GHC’s food pantry is open to the community, numerous community trainings support workforce development, and the College’s Bishop Center for the Performing Arts offers frequent music, drama, and other events that attract a wide variety of the county’s population and enjoy substantial community support. New academic programs support the region’s evolving workforce development needs.”
Commendations and Recommendations
The Evaluation Committee identified the following commendations and recommendations:
- The College is commended for the outstanding level of preparation and participation in the activities to support the Mission Fulfillment and Sustainability report and visit.
- The College is commended for its exemplary focus on its community that includes provision of visual arts, response to changing demographics, and implementation of academic, workforce, and community education programs that respond to service area needs.
- College faculty and staff are commended for their dedication to student success by providing individual student supports as well as maintaining a student-centered culture.
- The College is commended for the development and use of Faculty Inquiry Groups (FIGs) that promote careful and critical examination of processes to improve student learning.
- The College and the Incident Response and Command Team are commended for the diligent and comprehensive work to ensure the College is well prepared for emergencies and catastrophic events.
- The Evaluation Committee recommends the College develop a realistic financial forecasting plan to include evaluation of financial resources to ensure short term solvency and anticipate long-term obligations. This process should include appropriate opportunities for participation by college constituencies (2.F.1, 2.F.2, 2.F.3.)
- The Evaluation Committee recommends that the College expedite the process for development and utilization of regular and documented review, with revision as necessary, of policies, particularly those related to financial planning, budget development, and oversight and management of financial resources (2.A.6, 2.A.30., 2.F.3.).
- The Evaluation Committee recommends that the College integrate the multiple planning processes to facilitate prioritization of resource allocation and the use of institutional capacity (3.A.1., 3.A.4.).
- The Evaluation Committee recommends that the College fully implement student learning outcomes assessment across all degrees and programs, including the general education program, and use the assessment results to inform planning and improvement. (4.A.3, 4.A.6, 4.B.2.).
- The Evaluation Committee recommends that the College engage in systematic, participatory, self-reflective assessment of its accomplishments, and documents and evaluates its planning processes to ensure institutional effectiveness (5.A.1, 5.B.2).