Linked below is the July 30, 2013 e-mail from Texas State Technical College West Texas President Gail Lawrence to all employees declaring, “We are on the right course.” TSTC West Texas does, thank goodness, seem to be on a better course judging from preliminary reports. Those who open the link below can take in all those numbers and references to increasing numbers offered by President Lawrence. Numbers are all over that e-mail.
Back when the new “Returned Value Funding Model” was first being pitched, around 2008, TSTC employees first began to hear the mantra “numbers don’t matter” and similar phrases expressing that ill-conceived notion. When the college’s numbers, particularly its for-credit numbers, fell so drastically, what was so obvious to the rank and file from the outset finally became apparent to administrators responsible for that disastrous attitude and the disastrous policies that flowed from it. Among other lessons, they learned the hard way that a college has to keep its recruiters in the field, offer academic classes if it’s to offer sanctioned degrees, and maybe, just maybe, even ask students for their opinions now and then. I haven’t asked TSTC West Texas administrators if they think students are customers (of course they are; they pay for a service), but after students and would-be students took their business elsewhere by the truckload, I suspect administrators are pretty certain nowadays that they’re customers. When a college’s first-time, full-time students drop from 472 in the fall of 2004 to mere 26 in fall 2011 like they did at TSTC West Texas, something is dreadfully wrong. Numbers matter whether it’s Target, Walmart, or TSTC counting paying customers. That debate should be dead and buried in West Texas by now, and Lawrence’s e-mail is its epitaph. It is incredible to me that she found it necessary to ask, even rhetorically, “Do we need students?” Then again, after administrators pushed “numbers don’t matter” for years, she needed to confront the obvious and then go on to answer in the affirmative.
The college has much work to do yet to regain the ground it has lost in terms of enrollment and community reputation. Perhaps one of the hardest jobs administrators need to do will be to regain the respect and trust of their employees, at least the ones who weren’t laid off to pay for “numbers don’t matter.” I’ve got a few ideas on that if an administrator wants to give me a call. Readers will pardon me, however, if I don’t hold my breath. Meanwhile, I’ll request the final fall 2013 enrollment from the college after deregistration is complete and post those numbers, numbers that matter greatly, here on this blog.