Senior staff will ask the board of trustees to approve a continuation of the three goals from the Knox 2018 Strategic Plan rather creating a completely new strategic plan.
The new plan would end in the 2022-2023 academic year, a three year time frame rather than five years like the Knox 2018 Strategic Plan.
Along with the three goals from Knox 2018, the staff is also pressed by the deficit, instituting measures like voluntary early retirement and not replacing everyone who retires. For the next three years, though, certain projects are necessary for the college.
“There are areas of the strategic plan we did not achieve and they are critical to the institution,” President Teresa Amott said. “So, let’s keep going on that, let’s try to really achieve what we sought to achieve. But at the same time, we don’t want to lock it in forever.”
Retention will be a major focus, as it is one place Amott described the school as having lost ground. The first to second year retention rate was 81.2%.
The school is still assessing why retention was low but Amott knows it is not just financial pressures. Academics, athletics and mental health all play an important role too. They know 81% is not sustainable, but are still looking into determining a target retention rate.
One factor may be the academic calendar. The Knox 2018 plan included looking at changes to the calendar but it did not end up happening. With the current 10 week terms, Amott said, if a student misses two weeks for any reason, it may be difficult to catch up.
“You can’t recover, you have to drop something, you have to work with faculty to find some kind of mechanism to do that, and we think it’s just too stressful,” Amott said.
One possibility that would also help with experiential and immersion learning, another place where Knox 2018 made progress but which senior staff still wants to pursue further, is a 12-3, 12-3 program, which is currently done at schools including Harris-Stowe State University and Culver-Stockton College.
This plan would have twelve week terms with three classes and then three weeks for an immersion experience from research to internships, developed by both faculty and students, which would count as the equivalent of one course.
Students could potentially use their Power of Experience grants, part of the Knox 2018 implementation, to fund the immersion experiences.
Amott pointed out successes with the Knox 2018 plan, such as adding the bachelor of science programs and the business major, but also said some of the goals were not met, never looked at or that the college even lost ground in some.
Amott is also looking at adding a journalism major. For her, it hits three major goals: a history at Knox through figures like S.S. McClure, strategic value in attracting students and timeliness as investigative journalism enters what she called a new “Golden Era.”
Other places where administration hopes to continue work on are competitive faculty salaries and upgrades to campus sustainability and accessibility.
The first goal for senior staff this year, however, is to address the deficit. It is difficult to invest in things while also cutting costs, Amott said.
“Nobody wants to cut costs, I certainly do not want to preside over elimination of people’s jobs, nobody does,” she said. “But we can’t keep losing money. We just can’t. We’re not a for-profit, it’s not that we’re trying to make profits, but we have to cover our costs.”
Currently, the plan to lower some costs by encouraging voluntary retirement and not replacing everyone who retires.
Balancing the wants of current students and being attractive to future students can also be a challenge.
The senior staff currently plans to have students provide feedback on the plan through Student Senate, students on the Board committees and they are planning to host one or two open forums. Amott was worried turn out for an open forum would be low, but also acknowledged some students may not feel represented by Student Senate.
“I’m not unmindful of the fact that there are people who do not feel represented by Student Senate,” Amott said. “That is not unique to Knox, it’s true everywhere with student government.”