Admissions data concerning the incoming class of 2017 is in line with the financial plans of the college, President Teresa Amott said during her State of the College presentation at Student Senate April 11.
Despite starting the year with a $3.6 million dollar deficit, Amott assured that the budget gap is on track to be closed.
“We’re thinking that we’re going to finish the year in good shape. We will balance the budget,” Amott said.
A widespread interest in the financial climate of higher education, noted by Amott, has made the budget process an increasingly documented and debated issue this year as compared to years past, even though the college’s struggles have developed over a number of years.
“As we thought we are closing the gap, we’ve cut costs, we’ve had some savings in areas and we’ve also had renewed giving to the college,” Amott said.
Amott expects the school’s financial battles to continue next year.
“Next year, we face the same problem again so we’re working hard to try to get next year’s budget wrestled into control sooner,” Amott said.
One strategy is to grow the student body from 1,400 to 1,600 students by 2016.
Amott indicated that the admissions data concerning applications and deposits at this point in the process is supportive of the gradual growth goal.
“Our applications this year were up nearly 20 percent, and deposits are running substantially ahead of last year, so the picture is bright there,” Amott said.
Another side to growing the student body is the retention of students once they arrive on campus, which the administration is also taking steps to address. Amott noted that even though last year’s incoming class was one of the largest in the college’s history, campus enrollment dropped on the whole.
“We think we can make that up and that helps our overall budget picture. We don’t lose ground in overall enrollments. We think we’re on track for growing the student body É we think the picture in admissions is going to be very much supportive of addressing budget issues next year,” Amott said.
Amott also addressed the future of Dean of the College Larry Breitborde, who will be replaced by Laura Behling in July. Amott praised Behling’s enthusiasm and said that they had recently spoke about new curriculum, staff and other future projects they intend to pursue in the upcoming year.
Amott thanked students for their comments during the hiring process.
“I think it’s fair to say that there were positive comments about all three candidates; there was a sense that they were all qualified, but that there was greater excitement about our top candidate,” Amott said.
However, Amott was sure to relay that Breitborde is not departing from Knox indefinitely.
“He will take a year off on sabbatical leave. He’s going to pick up some of his research É he is an expert on the languages of Africa,” Amott said. “He did his fieldwork in Liberia … and will be going back to pick up his research and then return to join the [anthropology and sociology] department, and he’ll be in the classroom. He’s really not leaving Knox … but I think it’s just kind of a punishing job to have day in and day out.”
Amott stressed that the Dean of the College position carries a certain weight of responsibility.
“We say that he’s retiring , but it’s really important for people to know that he’s actually not retiring from Knox. He’s retiring from the dean’s job, which, honestly, is kind of a killer. … I only lasted six years in the dean’s job; he’s managed to have lasted practically two decades,” Amott said.
Breitborde intended to retire from the position last year, but stayed on to help Amott with her transition as the transition into the presidency.
“I begged him to stay one more year for me to just get a sense of the place before launching a search, so I’m very grateful to him,” Amott said.
In anticipation for Ed Helms’ commencement address, the college is preparing for a large number of spectators.
“You’ll all be glad to know we’re renting approximately 1,000 more folding chairs for commencement; I’m not kidding,” Amott said.