Denmark Technical College is pursuing several strategies to ensure its survival, President Dr. Willie L. Todd Jr. says. That includes increasing enrollment, boosting fundraising efforts and re-engineering the brand.
“We have a lot of heavy lifting to do, but we have the right people on the bus to do the heavy lifting, and we're prepared to move forward,” he said last week.
“At this point, I have not finalized a cabinet yet, but I have a strong core group of individuals who've been working with me as a transition team,” Todd said.
Todd, who became president on Jan. 6, addressed the DTC Area Commission last week.
The college was placed on warning by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools in 2018 for "significant noncompliance with the core requirements or standards of SACS.”
SACS most recently reviewed the college and maintained its accreditation for "good cause.” It placed the college on probation for 12 months, giving it until December 2020 to remedy deficiencies, including a declining fund balance.
Todd told commissioners that the fact that the institution was put on probation rather than having its accreditation taken away was a sign the college is on the right track.
He said he will share his 90-day plan with commissioners at the next meeting, but discussed his strategies with them.
Increasing enrollment is one of eight strategies Todd laid out for DTC, which currently has an enrollment of 474. A total of 480 students preregistered for the spring semester.
“I can tell you our recruiting team are really pounding the pavement. So we’re really excited about the potential to get new numbers,” he said.
Todd said he has been talking with area school district superintendents and is mulling new opportunities for dual-enrollment programs, along with a summer bridge program.
The college is also looking at exploring participation in the Second Chance Pell program. It allows eligible incarcerated individuals to receive Pell grants and pursue post-secondary education with the goal of helping them get jobs when they are released.
“Our hope is that we have them better prepared to go and become viable citizens,” Todd said.
Increasing funding for the college is another strategy.
Todd said he will have a position in his new cabinet that will be primarily focused on fundraising.
“That's something that have not seen here at the college in quite some time, but we all know how important it is to have someone whose goal is to work with advancement and to work with development and have an opportunity to engage alumni and community and industry,” Todd said.
The college is hoping to raise $2.5 million over the next five years through a capital campaign.
Denmark Tech has already received a $30,000 from its alumni association, with $15,686 already raised among faculty and staff alone. It was also reported that the college had raised nearly $22,000 through its annual scholarship gala, which was held Jan. 31.
“I could not be prouder of our faculty and staff,” Todd said.
He said, “building a culture of collaboration” is another strategy he is working on, especially as the college prepares for SACS-Commission on Colleges site visit on Oct. 1
“We are well poised to respond positively to SACSCOC,” Todd said.
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The college’s strategic plan will be worked on over the next six months, Todd said.
The college’s mission will be reworded and area commission members will be engaged in planning committees, he said. The aim is to, “build a culture of continuous improvement.”
“We’re just doing a lot of little cosmetic things, but the students are noticing, individuals are noticing. … We know as we recruit and seek to retain (students), that we also have to look at the infrastructure on our campus,” Todd said.
Re-branding the institution is another strategic goal, including with an updated website and commercials with the help of state funding.
A re-innovation/re-engineering team will also be developed to help reengage individuals both locally and nationally in the promotion of the college.
“We really are excited about those types of partnerships and those types of collaborations,” Todd said, including with local industry and the Lower Savannah Council of Governments.
Restructuring the college and building its infrastructure will include what Todd called an environmental scan.
“We’re really looking to make sure that, one, we’re providing top-quality services for all of our students, but we’re also looking to say, ‘Do we have areas where there’s a duplication of service?’” Todd said.
He said student success will have to involve more than just a focus on teaching trades.
“That’s vitally important, but we still have an obligation to make sure that they’re prepared at least with basic level reading comprehension, with critical thinking and analysis and some other skills. … We’re ultimately working on creating a pathway that will lead to perpetual engagement,” the president said.
He said the college has compiled an approved student email list and is also excited to announce its enhanced fiber optic capabilities for faster Internet service.
“Very soon we will have fiber optics all over this entire campus,” Todd said.
Commissioner the Rev. Dr. Herman Wallace said, “I think it’s the consensus from SACS that we’re on the right track.”
He noted that he would like to see more positive media coverage of the college.
“A lot of positive things are going on at the school and it would help to see that on front page as opposed to a little article later on in there,” Wallace said.
Commissioner James Bowden said as the college seeks to raise money with a cabinet person designated for fundraising, he wants to make sure that that person works with the DTC Foundation.
“Although it is two separate entities, it would be good if they worked in concert,” Bowden said.
“I’m very curious and interested in the re-engineering of this college because I think it’s needed and if it’s done correctly, it’s going to pay off some great dividends for us,” Bowden said.
Todd said that he also welcomes any of the commissioners’ ideas on new programs for the college, “especially if they are programs that are going to be certificate programs and programs that don’t require us to get approval from SACSCOC.”
Building construction has already returned and HVAC, plumbing and auto mechanics are among the other programs being explored, Todd said.
DTC Area Commission Chairman Kevin Whitt said he believes the college is on the right track.
“I'd really like to commend Dr. Todd and his team for the level of effort that has occurred in the last two weeks. There were some challenges immediately following his taking on the presidency. He has worked through those challenges very quickly and with a very clear mind and clear focus on what the end result needs to be. I'd just like to commend Dr. Todd and his team on the work that they've done so far and look forward to seeing that in the future,” Whitt said.
Also during the meeting, Denmark Tech Business Manager Jamie L. Wise-McClary gave a business and finance report, stating, “Our total approved budget for current unrestricted revenue is $6,957,311 and of that amount, we've received 84.37 percent, which is a total of $5,870,148.41."
McClary added, “Our total budgeted amount for current and restricted expenditures is $6,957,311. Of that amount, we expended 49.30 percent, which is a total of $3,430,236.34."
As of Jan. 20, McClary said, “Our total revenue received is $5,870,148.41, and the total amount we've expended is $3,430,236.34. As you can see, we are controlling our expenses and hopeful that this trend will continue through June 30.”
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