Wednesday, November 6, 2013

In meeting at Midway College, economic-development board hears reasons for concern and hope on campus

By Allan Ducker
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

When the Woodford County Economic Development Authority board came to Midway College for its monthly meeting Oct. 25, it heard some concerns about the college. While the main focus of the meeting was the authority’s annual audit, a discussion about Midway College revealed some concerning statistics about the college as it moves forward.

Ellen Gregory, vice president of marketing and communications at the college, gave the members of the authority an update on the college, including a significant enrollment drop that led to layoffs, and a need to increase fund-raising.

In an interview Gregory gave several reasons for the 18 percent drop in enrollment for the fall semester from last fall, to 1,362 students. She said the college saw its largest graduating class this past spring, and recruitment “is a major challenge, as the market for private colleges is getting smaller and smaller.”

The enrollment is an even bigger concern at Midway because it is a “tuition dependent institution,” Gregory told the board. She said only 3 to 4 percent of the college’s annual budget at the college is from fundraising, so it relies on tuition to fund programs more than most private colleges.

Gregory told the board that the college has set a 10 percent fundraising goal, “in line with other institutions of similar size and makeup.”

In the interview, she cited the college’s youth as a four-year institution (it granted its first four-year degrees in 1991) and unique alumni base (all resident students are women) as reasons for the low rate of fundraising.

Gregory said in a follow-up email that only 3 to 4 percent of Midway alumni donate to the college. Centre College in Danville, founded in 1819, has a 52 percent alumni giving rate. Gregory said Midway College is always looking for new ways to engage alumni, and keep pace with other institutions of its kind.

Another note from the meeting was the news that the college has switched from a per-credit hour tuition model to a flat model. The residential tuition cost is $11,000 per semester; in the past, students paid $600 to $700 per credit hour. This led to difficult schedule planning for some students, Gregory said, and the decision to change to a flat model was done entirely to benefit students, recruitment and enrollment. She said the new model benefits students by allowing them to freely schedule classes at a flat cost, rather than scheduling the amount of hours based upon finances.

Board member Sonny Jones asked for a comparison of tuition at Midway to institutions of similar size and market. Gregory said she wasn’t sure how the college compared to public institutions, but “Last time we looked we were somewhere near the upper middle for private schools.”

While some in the community may be worried about the direction of the college, given last year’s forced departure of William Drake as president, the losses suffered from the pharmacy-school project that was abandoned and the recent enrollment drop and layoffs, Gregory told the board that with the new influx of leadership the college is on the rise, and progressing in ways not seen before. She said it is looking to expand and crate programs that will attract students.

The board expressed interest in helping the college improve. Soper noted that EDA and Midway officials would like to attract “green jobs” to the community, and “We think having the college here would be a sales point.” He said part of EDA’s mission is helping large employers, and “I hope we have started a dialogue today that we can continue.”

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