Dr. Martin Eggensperger, left, and Board chair Carolyn Collins
POCAHONTAS, AR Feb. 10, 2020 – On Thursday, February 6, the Board of Trustees for Black River Technical College held their regularly scheduled meeting at the Paragould location.
President Martin Eggensperger and Rhonda Stone, vice president of finance, announced that reserves have not been touched this year. The college has found alternate resources to cover all expenses, including implementing a 6% budget cut in Fall 2019 and another 10% budget cut this month.
Jason Smith, vice president of enrollment management, announced BRTC was approved to be a part of the federal work study program. The college will receive $60,000 a year to employ students on campus. This amount will cover the approximately $62,000 the college has spent per year employing student workers on campus.
In addition, Smith was pleased to share that the college itself will not be utilizing college funds to pay for any part of the mascot. The Student Government Association (SGA) offered to pay for the mascot. Student activity fees are restricted to student-based expenditures and are managed by SGA. SGA generally spends about half of the funds they receive each year and have been saving the rest. SGA offered the college $40,000 to use in creating the mascot, leaving them well over $150,000 in savings for other needs as students see fit.
BRTC president announced that the Arkansas Department of Higher Education (ADHE) coordinating board approved BRTC to offer a gunsmithing technology program in Pocahontas beginning in Fall 2020. He also said progress on the berm to protect the Pocahontas campus from flooding is moving as scheduled, and encouraged the board members to support the BRTC Gala which will be held on March 14.
BRTC vice president of academic affairs Dr. Brad Baine announced that with the hiring of his administrative assistant to the president’s office, Janie Campbell from Williams Baptist College has accepted the position as administrative assistant to his office. He summarized a productive meeting at the education co-op in Walnut Ridge with legislators, higher education institutions, and public school leaders.
Ramonda Housh, dean of nursing and allied health, reported that applications for the traditional RN program are being taken. She said between Friday, January 31 and Wednesday, February 5, over 145 applications had been submitted for the 24 RN slots. Of those, 40 students requested seating at the Arkansas Methodist Medical Center (AMMC) location. Discussion ensued about helping students who are not selected to the RN program succeed in other programs at the college.
Phillip Dickson, dean of business and technical programs, reported that rifilesmithing would be the first focus of the gunsmithing program. In Spring 2021, shotgunsmithing would open and in Fall 2021, pistolsmithing would begin. Pistolsmithing was reserved for last since students must be 21 years of age to enroll in the program.
Dickson also reported that ADHE had approved a certificate of proficiency in medical coding, a business program which will enable students to begin work making around $40,000 at hospitals. In addition, the auto body program’s accrediting body, NATEF, was on campus earlier in the week and gave glowing reviews of the program. In 2015, the program had been place don probation but had met all requirements before the end of that school year. Today, the program is exemplary.
Smith reported that even though enrollment is down, he anticipates an enrollment growth in Greene County with the introduction of the secondary technical center in Paragould in the fall. He also reported that the college has seen a 23% increase in new students. To help the college remain stable, Smith’s goal is to identify ways to establish sustainable, steady growth and avoid big swings in enrollment growth and decline.
Smith reported that students were also interested in establishing intramural athletics for fun, and work is proceeding to achieve this goal. Smith said his office is working to improve career services for students.
Stone presented regular financial reports to the board. The Board authorized the annual resolution to authorize expense reimbursement for Board of Trustee members. With the implemented budget cuts, the college expects to remain in the black for the first time in a number of years.
The decision was made to end the contract with the online bookstore and bring it back to campus. Student input was important to this decision. While this process is still being developed, Dr. Eggensperger aims for the bookstore to be “revenue neutral.” The college is not looking to make money off of students but provide a service at an affordable rate to students.
A very pressing discussion at ADHE was the problem many Arkansas colleges are having with the expense of deferred maintenance on old buildings. BRTC’s deferred maintenance fee addresses the concerns of this board by providing a revenue source to address leaky roofs and the other needs of old buildings.
Karen Liebhaber, vice president of institutional advancement, introduced Stephanie Sutton, chair of the BRTC Foundation Board. Sutton explained that the Foundation is working to expand into Paragould. Sutton also reported that the annual campaign Growing Strong is way ahead of where it was last year thanks to returned donors and increased donations. Sutton also invited the public to the 14th annual BRTC Gala which will be held on March 14 at the Randolph County Development Center (RCDC) at the Pocahontas campus. This year, a limited number of tickets will also be sold to a President’s Reception which will be held before the Gala.
Elizabeth Collins, English instructor at the Paragould location, will be assisting the Office of Institutional Advancement at Paragould and invited the public to attend the 6th annual Scholarship 5K and 0.0K at the Paragould location which funds the Paragould Scholarship. Since the scholarship was implemented, 65 corporate and community and academic students have received the $250 scholarship to be used as they need. Collins encouraged the board and the public to participate in the 5K or the 0.0K to help award more scholarships.
Regina Moore, director of distance education and instructional technology, shared a fire science promotional video which was produced by staff member Holly Looney who works for both distance education and institutional advancement. The video was premiered during the board meeting and will begin to be shared on social media and in advertisement afterward.
Liebhaber explained that the mascot process has reached the design company point and an ad company is being interviewed for the job. The reveal is set for mid-August. She also shared the importance of social media to the college’s advertising and said while the largest number of people one post has reached in the past has been 11,500, the gunsmithing post itself has reached over 39,000. She thanked those who shared the college’s Facebook posts and encouraged others to do so. Such sharing saves the college money. Finally, Liebhaber shared the importance of the legislative support that the college has had over the past few months.
Priscilla Stillwell, site director for the Paragould location, explained that Darenda Kersey, business instructor and concurrent coordinator, has been active with the Paragould location and has been very helpful to students. The Greene County Industrial Training Center (GCITC) has partnered with BRTC Paragould to spruce up the board room by providing new chairs. The college has repainted the walls and replaced the flooring. The room has not had a touch-up in many years.
Stillwell also reported that Paraoguld corporate and community education has added HVAC training and Cyient is working with BRTC to offer internships. She also expressed excitement at working with institutional advancement and the Foundation in establishing a Foundation committee at Paragould.
Sissy Gray, director of accreditation and assessment, reported that an simpler annual timeline for the college’s accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC), has been established and is on track. A monitoring report due on December 4 is already being created.
Gray also outlined the planning, budgeting, and assessment cycle the college will follow and shared the latest version of the 2020-2021 strategic plan. As a show of support, the Board of Trustees formally moved to support the plan.
Gray identified that the college has learned it has a problem with its past data processes, so an institutional reporting team has been created to look at and address these issues. Data needs for the college and for departments is being identified and addressed. Currently, data for the state’s performance funding plan is being addressed.
Board chair Carolyn Collins thanks the employees, administration, and the Foundation on all they had accomplished and on their hard work. Former chair Doug Cox also expressed his appreciation for the college and Foundation’s hard work and work to address monetary issues with partnerships instead of using reserve funds.
After the meeting, the board members and all attendees were invited to tour the renovated RN facilities at AMMC.