Clermont College opened in 1972 to provide the residents of Clermont County a more accessible form of higher education. The concept of opening a college in Clermont County started in the late 1960s according to 25th Anniversary Clermont College, Ensuring a Brighter Future, a book written by librarian Fred Marcotte for Clermont College’s twenty-fifth anniversary. They believed that they needed to link together the industrial and retail industries. These community founders wanted the college to be located where it would be accessible to residents that would not be able to receive higher education, otherwise. Groundbreaking began on July 30, 1971, and the first school year was held the following year.
The relationship between the University of Cincinnati and Clermont College started in 1969 when, according to Marcotte’s research book, “a group of Clermont County citizens, organizations, and business owners got together and made a proposal to the University of Cincinnati to start a branch campus in Clermont County.”
Edith Peters became the first dean in Clermont’s history. This move was somewhat controversial because she was the first female dean in Ohio. She was also only hired three months before the college opened and she was not part of the University of Cincinnati staff which is where the school was looking to hire from originally. She later resigned as dean in 1980 and then worked as an Associate Professor of English at University College. Robert Flinchbaugh served as Clermont’s dean from 1980 until 1984. Once he resigned, George Wolff became the dean in 1984, however, he only lasted until 1985. After that, Roger Barry became the dean of the college from 1985 until 1996. He was the longest-serving dean in the Colleges fairly short history.
Obviously, the college did not have much stability because of the constant change in the dean’s office. As a new college in a new location, this did not help the college much. The individuals who became dean and then quickly resigned most likely did so because they did not think that they personally had the tools to run the school. This is because almost all of them returned to the college as professors.
The tuition at Clermont is something that is incredibly attractive to prospective students, but the cost of attendance was the same as the University of Cincinnati until the 1988-1989 school year. Dean Roger Barry finally convinced the university to allow branch campuses to charge different tuition prices. The first year that this was enacted, the tuition was only 44 dollars less than the University of Cincinnati. But, by 1995 the difference was enough to start attracting more students. By 1998, the difference was around 391 dollars.
One of Clermont’s signature items for representing the college is a lantern. It is where the name of our publication comes from. It was also the main logo for celebrating the college’s twenty-fifth anniversary. But, why is that one of the college’s logos? When the college first opened, the previous owner of the land that Clermont College now resides on, Mrs. Velma Woodward Newhouse, gave an old brass lantern that her grandfather, Josiah L. Woodward, owned.
UC Clermont has grown substantially since the early days. However, in the past several years, the retention and graduation rates have dropped, and the school seems to be struggling financially. The question is: Why is this happening? And, how is the college looking to improve and face these challenges?
At any college, there are two main problems that seem to arise no matter what kind of situation the school is in: graduation and retention rates. These two numbers can change the outlook of a school, for the better and sometimes for the worse. UC Clermont is no different; in fact, those two numbers represent two of the biggest challenges facing UCC.
To completely understand exactly what these numbers mean, one must know where they are coming from. There are several different ways that retention and graduation rates can be calculated. The first term is full-time freshman cohort. To be eligible to be included in this group, a student must be attending college for the first time (as an undergraduate), he or she must be a full-time student and be enrolled in the fall term on the first census date. This is one of the most important in calculating retention and graduation rates because they are based on what most would call “regular college students.” At UC Clermont, the cohort headcount has stayed consistent over the years; it makes up around 21.1 percent of all students, or 591 actual people, as of Fall 2017
There are two types of retention rates as well. The first one, fall-to-fall, shows if a student stays at the college from one academic year to another one. The other method, fall-to-spring, only shows if they stayed from one semester to another (in the same academic year). Since Clermont is a two-year school, it is rare that anything other than the first-to-second year is calculated because the students that stay for three years are usually not full-time students.
The first-year retention at Clermont has seen an increase of 2.4% over the last five years. That rate now sits at 59.5%, as of fall semester, 2017. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, on average, first-year retention is around 61.1%. Clermont’s retention may seem a bit lower than average at first glance, but that is also comparing UCC to larger, four-year institutions, such as UC’s Clifton campus. In comparison to actual two-year colleges, Clermont is on par with them and even surpasses them in some cases. For example, Chatfield College is comparable to Clermont, and their retention rate is around 48%.
The graduation rate at Clermont has also increased in the last couple years, going from 16.6% in fall 2013 to 20.1% in fall of 2017. These numbers, are of course, based on the full-time freshmen cohort of students. In comparison to other schools, Clermont is falling behind other universities who average a 50.7% graduation rate. The headcount at Clermont has fallen as well—drastically. In the fall of 2010, there were almost 4,000 students attending; in the fall of 2017, that number was around 2,800.
There are several reasons why these numbers may be so low. The first reason relates to high school graduation rates. At most colleges, the admissions office keeps track of the high schools where most students come from. In Clermont’s case, it keeps track of the top twenty high schools that feed into Clermont. In the last several years, the graduation numbers from these schools have dropped dramatically. In 2015, 3,929 students graduated, while in the next year, there was a decrease of approximately 700 students, down to 3,273. That number dipped to its lowest in 2017. However, in 2018, the projected number is on its way back up. The college’s administration has predicted that in 2020, there will be over 4,000 students graduating from those top twenty schools.
The reason that these schools matter so much is because UCC is a regional campus. Almost all students come from Clermont County or other neighboring counties. Clermont relies on the local population much more than other four-year schools because they are not able to recruit outside that area.
The next challenge UC Clermont faces is the unemployment rate, which is at an eight-year low currently in Clermont County. In 2017, the unemployment percentage was a mere 4.7%, which means that almost everyone that can work, physically, has access to a job. But, why is that a problem? Generally, UC Clermont flourishes when the unemployment rate is high. When that number is high, many workers struggle to find jobs, so they go back to college to earn a degree in the hopes of finding different or better employment. Dean Bauer said, “In kind of a reverse fashion, it is best for us when the employment rate is low.”
Another one of Clermont’s challenges is its location. It serves the residents of Clermont County quite well, but it is rare that a student from another part of the state will come to the campus. Clermont’s recruiters are restricted to the only recruit from the Clermont County area as well as some of Kentucky. Because it’s situated just outside the village of Batavia, Clermont lacks a “college town” environment that might otherwise be an attraction to students. It is truly a “commuter campus,” and they are generally much smaller than traditional college campuses.
Also, since Clermont is regionally based, its recruiters cannot go very far to find prospective students. This limits the total amount of students that are interested in coming to, or even know about, Clermont. Blaine Kelley is the Associate Director of Student Recruitment. He has been with Clermont College for eighteen years, and before then, he worked in the private sector for sixteen years. His biggest challenge as a recruiter is “converting applicants into actual students.” He mentioned that millennials tend to push off their confirmation, which makes it more difficult for both two- and four-year colleges alike.
Kelley has a small team of two other recruiters. They go to high schools in northern Kentucky. Another recruiter, Kathie Cooper, focuses on “our BTAS degree and adult learners, while also handling West Clermont, Milford, and Loveland High Schools.” Kelley covers twenty-eight high schools and tech centers in Ohio. The recruiters take turns covering college fairs and similar programs.
Addressing the Issues
While any organization always has room to improve, several of the factors previously mentioned are not in UCC’s control. For example, the unemployment rate and high school graduation rates are both what former dean and current English professor Dr. Greg Sojka calls “outside factors.” He explained that they are both good and bad for the school. “The good part about them,” Dr. Sojka said, “is that we cannot control them, so it is not the school’s fault. The bad part, however, is the same reason: that we have no control, and if the numbers are not favoring us, we can get stuck.”
While those outside factors are out of the school’s control, things do appear to be going in the right direction. In terms of the unemployment rate, in 2016, the number was as low as it had been since 2009, at 4.4 percent. Last year, the number increased 0.3 percent, to 4.7. This may not seem like a substantial increase, but it may be foreshadowing what is to come in the next several years, and if that number continues to rise, it will ultimately benefit Clermont.
Additionally, the high school graduation rate for Clermont’s top twenty feeder schools is on a similar path as the unemployment rate. In 2017, it dipped to a low of 3,222 students. Compare this to just a couple years ago, when 4,187 graduates left those feeder schools. However, the college has predicted that the graduation rate will be up to 4,000 again by the year 2020.
One of the adjuncts at Clermont College, Kyle Koeppe, was taking classes as a post-secondary student during the time when Clermont had the highest student population. When asked, “What are the biggest attractors for prospective students?” Koeppe replied with the same answer he did for the biggest detractors: the size of the school. He explained that because Clermont is a small campus, the number of classes—and when they are offered—is limited. On the other hand, because it is a small campus, it gives many students “a stepping stone into collegiate life. The smaller class sizes give students a chance to get to know their professors better and not feel as if they are lost in the crowd [in]a giant lecture hall.”
The location of the school is also something that has been a concern to prospective students. Numerous students believe that since the village of Batavia does not have many businesses or places to go to spend time with friends, students will likely go home directly after classes and only come back to campus when they have another class.
Blaine Kelley, the college’s head recruiter, said that Clermont’s location is making it so students from the closest high schools are making Clermont their “first choice.” Some of the bigger public high schools like New Richmond, Anderson, Western Brown, and West Clermont promote Clermont’s recruiting efforts. However, they also greatly promote four-year institutions over two-year colleges. That is another outside factor that is hurting Clermont.
Most students that attend UC Clermont are from the local high schools. This campus allows students who wish to stay close to home the opportunity to live at home while still receiving a quality UC education from some of the best professors in the area. Kelley said that there are always students who want to get away from home, but for those who don’t, Clermont should be at the top of their list.
Steve Young, the Senior Assistant Dean for facilities, has plans to help Clermont in the future. Over his twenty-four-year career at the school, his department has made several changes and updates to the campus, especially in terms of attracting prospective students. Since 2016, the maintenance team has been working on several projects that just ended in the summer of 2017. They have installed new elevators, windows, sprinklers, and several other much-needed changes. Young said that the updates were necessary because one building, Edith Peters-Jones, is forty-five years old and the systems were outdated.
He said that the only problem with these sorts of upgrades is that they are not eye-catching. The updates to those systems cost the school millions of dollars, and while they were necessary, they won’t be talked about as much as something like a new place to eat on campus. Of course, Young does have plans to make Clermont as good as it can possibly be. He personally feels like he is just as responsible for students choosing Clermont as any member of the faculty or staff. There are several tasks that he has completed, or is close to completing, that will help students choose Clermont. For example, he is focusing on modernizing the classrooms and hallways as much as possible. Young said, “When a student comes on a tour here, they are usually surprised to find how nice the campus is.” Young has replaced the furniture in most of the classrooms on campus. He said that if a student were to come to campus and see furniture that was older than his or her high school’s furniture, they tend to go elsewhere.
However, the spaces that Young and other Clermont administrators find imperative to update are the halls. The main reason behind constantly updating the hallways with new benches and places where students can relax is because they want students to do just that: relax. Young refers to them as “crash places” where students can sit with their friends and study. He explained that since this is a commuter school, the campus wants to try to create an atmosphere that students want to stay at, even when their classes are over. Young said that “students on campus tend to stay on campus because they are more focused on their education.”
One idea that is still in the brainstorming phase for Young and the maintenance team has to do with an updated student lounge. He mentioned that they think that the way it is currently set up is not an ergonomic and best suited for the students that are at Clermont. The general idea is that this plan, along with the other updates Clermont has already received, will attract and retain more students.
Another concept that Young stresses often relates to the cleanliness of the college. He wants the entire campus to look clean so that the students that are already here, or prospective students who are visiting, won’t be driven away by something non-academic. He makes sure that he and his team are constantly looking for areas to mop, sweep, or generally straighten up. For example, restrooms are often the dirtiest rooms in a building, and the condition of restrooms can often deter “customers” from patronizing any given location. At Clermont, Young and his team makes sure that they are cleaned several times a day so that they remain as hygienic and attractive as possible.
One reason that Clermont is popular for people that want to stay in this area is the connection with the University of Cincinnati. Mae Hanna, the Senior Assistant Dean for Clermont College Relations, said that other schools like Chatfield College or Southern State cannot present themselves in the same way that Clermont can. In addition to numerous other responsibilities, Ms. Hanna is also the head of marketing. This means contacting students and finding new ways to attract prospective students, as well as keep current students’ attention. She said, “Having the ability to promote the school as being a part of UC is a huge advantage that we have.” In addition to the UC name itself, students that attend Clermont are getting an education from professors that have taught on main campus, as well as many other schools across the country (and, in some cases, world). Students get a great education from dedicated professors, and at the end of it all, their degree or certificate says, “University of Cincinnati.” This has enormous value in today’s workplace.
Probably the biggest advantage that Clermont has over other schools has to do with cost. Clermont is incredibly affordable when compared to four-year universities. When asked what the biggest selling points of the college were, Blaine Kelley mentioned the “three Cs”: we are Connected to UC, the Cost is less than half of most state schools in Ohio, and Clermont is located Close to most students’ homes. In his experience, these are consistently the main reasons students select UC Clermont, so these “three C’s” are what our campus emphasizes when we recruit new students.” The convenience of the college is especially underrated when it comes to reviewing the school. According to Collegecal.org, a website that tracks information about colleges, Clermont’s tuition is $4,580 per year for in-state residents. This website noted that this is “33% cheaper than the national average public four-year tuition.”
The Strategic Plan
Many organizations that are as big and complex as Clermont have a “strategic plan.” Dr. Sojka was the first dean at Clermont to have a document like this in a long time. There have been other strategic plans in the school’s history, but there had been a substantial break. In his plan, he focused on small improvements. He explained that if Clermont has 4,000 students and our retention rate increases by one percent, then Clermont will keep forty more students. He also did research about students who were successful in college and found three characteristics that these students had. The first one relates what goals the students have; students need to know what they are aiming for to be able to get there. Dr. Sojka explained that when a student encountered adversity or setbacks during their academic career (which is quite common), they would often give up if they did not have certain goals in mind that kept them focused. Another characteristic he noted was that students who were part of a group or club tended to be more successful. Like goal-setting, when a student is struggling, it is good to have some friends or a close group to look to for support or encouragement. Finally, Dr. Sojka’s also noticed that students who are more sociable with their peers on campus were generally more driven in their academics. He tried to incorporate all these factors into the college’s first strategic plan.
A strategic plan generally only lasts three to five years. That is why Dean Bauer is creating a new one. Dr. Bauer has put together a committee that is helping him create and revise a new strategic plan. Some of the school’s administrative department like, Mae Hanna, Steve Young, and others are featured in the academic department. The goal of this committee is to help Clermont get back on track regarding student enrollment and retention, as well as make sure there is a distinct and clear outline of responsibilities for all faculty and staff. The document itself is still in progress, but Dr. Bauer provided.
The information that is below is based on information that was provided in early February. The strategic planning committee is still working feverishly on the document and this information is bound to change. There have been substantial changes to the organization of the document as well as the specific contents. However, in a broad sense, the information should stay relatively similar.
As of now, there are six broad goals that all have specific objectives. The first goal is “Academic Offerings and Innovation.” The objectives for this goal are some of the more difficult to accomplish because they are longer-ranged goals. The first objective is to “build a prioritized list of potential new programs that complement our current offerings and meet local and regional market needs.” With all the objectives, Bauer and the committee have made it, so it is easy to distinguish who oversees what for each specific agenda. For this objective, academic affairs and department chairs are working together. They hope to have the final list out by December of 2018 and then install the programs into the college by 2020.
Another one of the objectives is to improve the retention rate for the school. The committee believes that Clermont can rise into the top twenty-five percent for fall to fall and fall to spring retention. Their goal is to have this done by Fall of 2020. There is a total of ten different objectives for this goal.
The second goal in the plan is fiscal responsibility. Clermont is, of course, aware of the situation that the college is in economically. They are also taking responsibility for it and are working to move past where they are and improve upon it. Some of these objectives include: reach optimal class size for profitability, increase funding for staff and faculty development, and determine the financial impact of outreach activities. If the predictions that Clermont has made about unemployment and graduation rates are true, Clermont should start having larger class sizes, which of course means more money for the college. The committee wants to put the money that they make right back into the school in terms of training for professors and staff members, as well as improving areas for students such as updated classrooms.
For Clermont, the third goal is one that stands specifically. Since Clermont is incredibly small compared to four-year institutions, there are a good number of students that are unaware that the campus even exists. One of the tenured professors, William Wise did not even know about Clermont even though he lived relatively close to it. He found out about it when he finally drove up the hill to see what the flag was. This, of course, was long before he began his teaching career. Getting the word out to students is imperative for all schools, but for Clermont, even more so. The third goal is completely devoted to the marketing and communications side of Clermont. The first objective on this list is to complete a new marketing plan by March 30th. This is to “refine out positioning and messaging so focus in on innovating marketing efforts that will impact enrollment and yield the most. The aim is to increase open house attendance by ten percent …” Mae Hanna is the Senior Assistant Dean for marketing and she knows how important the University of Cincinnati Clifton campus is to the success of Clermont. A good number of students that are interested in going to UC main, will also look at Clermont if they are interested in a two-year program. Some students want to have the college experience, which is unattainable for Clermont. However, students going for a four-year program are starting at Clermont more often. These “2+2” programs allow students to save a great deal of money for the first two years by going to Clermont. Then, they switch to main campus and finish. This is a great program that allows students to save money and still receive a college experience. One downside to this is that on paper, it appears that this group of students transferred schools. Because they did not graduate from Clermont, it hurts Clermont’s graduation rate.
The next goal is facilities and infrastructure. These goals include tasks such as updating the campus master plan, adding a central plant facility, and safety and security. The campus master plan is like the strategic plan; the difference is that the master plan is specific to facilities and maintenance. Steve Young and his team are looking to include an updated student lounge, outdoor gathering places, more locations for athletics, as well as an athletic office space. The central utility plant will require the request of funding from the government to complete.
Goal five is arguably, the most important: Recruiting and retention. Of course, this includes objectives such as, improve graduation and retention rates to a certain percent (which has not been decided yet). However, there are several other more specific goals. One of which is to research the “viability of adding athletics programs, which could bring us a new facet of students.” Clermont does have athletic teams such as men’s and women’s soccer and basketball teams. The men’s basketball team sold out several games in the previous season. However, the athletic programs do not earn the school as much as it could. Schools like Ohio State make an incredible amount of money from their athletic programs. If Clermont could find a way to improve their teams, and have more popularity, they could begin to use some of that to improve the school.
Clermont is focusing on improving their diversity as well as the impacts they have within the community. In goal six, some of the objectives include training on diversity and inclusion for faculty and staff, improve methods to recruit diverse faculty and staff, improve relations between the village of Batavia, as well as several other tasks. Clermont’s campus, by nature, is not very diverse because the high-schools that feed Clermont are all relatively close together, and Clermont cannot recruit from different areas of the country. There are faculty and staff that are from different regions, though. The committee is looking to make sure everyone on campus feels included. The village of Batavia and Clermont college are very close geographically, but they seem distant when it comes to relations. The students that go to Clermont usually do not socialize in Batavia, like a normal college town. The dean wants to see if there is a way to connect the town with the college so that students stay closer to the school, as well as help the village of Batavia.
While the strategic plan is the college’s main way of identifying and solving the challenges the college faces, he and the strategic planning committee have created a separate piece that broadly discusses how the college will perform. Dr. Bauer is intent on making the campus as student-focused as possible. He believes that Clermont is the perfect campus for providing for students. In terms of student population, Clermont is, of course, quite small. However, this means that the student-to-faculty ratio is also favorable; currently, that ratio stands at 14:1. This allows professors to have much more individual time with students. Clermont also tries to provide numerous events to help bring students together. Just a couple examples of this is the annual Fall Fest and Spring Fling. Additionally, UC Clermont also has several athletic teams, and while we do not have as many as a typical four-year university, in comparison to other similar colleges, Clermont has more than most.
The document that the dean provided (that is different than the strategic plan) is broken down into ten different areas where the college wishes to be student-centered. The first one revolves around “expanding online offerings while maintaining our mission as an open-access college.” The explosion of online education has given Clermont an incredible ability to reach students nationwide. As a continuation from Dr. Sojka’s previous work as dean, the college has moved several parts of various programs online, and now is looking into moving entire programs online; an example of a program that could be heading in the direction of fully online is The Bachelor of Applied and Technical Studies. It is aimed at adult students who already have an associate degree. For students who cannot attend face-to-face classes on campus, this will give them the ability to still be enrolled at UC Clermont.
The next goal is quite familiar: retention and graduation rates. These are the most important statistics that a college can look at. In a broader sense, Clermont is looking to increase student success. One way this can be accomplished is through post-graduation employment. UC Clermont staff and faculty want to make sure that students are set for success after completing their degree. UC Clermont’s Career Services specializes in helping students find internships and employment opportunities.
According to the document still discussing being a student-centered college, Clermont’s focus continues as the administration wants to “develop innovative curricula and teaching methods to create accessible high-quality courses.” In high schools, there is a certain curriculum that teachers must follow for each different course, and this is usually developed according to specific guidelines set by the state. At the college level, it is up to the actual university to decide what it wants to teach. New programs and classes must be approved by the administration. While they want to innovate and make sure the students are receiving an education that is interesting and relevant, the administration at UC Clermont also knows how important small class sizes are to students and they want to keep it this way as much as possible.
Student-life on Clermont leaves a lot to be desired. Since UC is the very definition of a commuter college, it is a given that most students do not stay on campus as much as they would if they went to a typical four-year university that had student housing. One important goal that UC Clermont has, therefore, is to create a more social environment. This means adding places for students and faculty to work, or just to relax and chat with friends, and this process has already begun. It is most evident in the library, where Katie Foran-Mulachy has renovated and updated the space so that it is a comfortable environment for students. The Strategic Planning Committee has discussed adding a coffee stand somewhere on campus, as well as a yogurt stand. These two items are not confirmed, but they are currently under discussion.
This goal also includes using existing facilities on campus to better provide activities for students. For example, the English department recently held a “meet and greet” for all English staff and student majors. This event was designed to help these groups get more familiar with one another. However, like other such gatherings on campus, the turnout for such events can sometimes be disappointing. The administration understands that after classes are finished, students just want to go home. But, they also are working towards making parts of the campus more sociable, more inviting and welcoming, so that students find reasons to stay on campus after their classes are released.
One of the most important goals of this document is about something that the Clifton campus as well as the Clermont campus share, The Bearcat Promise. The Bearcat Promise is something that every student who attends any University of Cincinnati campus is given. The promise is to “enable students to build a clear and cohesive pathway to achieve their academic, career, and financial goals.” With places on campus such as The Learning Center, Onestop, advising, and others, students are given plenty of opportunities to take advantage of the support offered by the college. Students must be willing to help themselves by receiving help from these places on campus.
The next objective on the list involves the need to “continue to invest in the professional development of our faculty and staff.” Clermont often conducts training for their instructors concerning the various teaching methods and styles, because they know that different students learn best is sometimes very different ways. Another way that this goal is applicable concerns training staff and faculty to be able to work better with minority students. As an example, all tutors and staff members that worked in The Learning Center went to a class that educated them about Title IX and everything that goes into avoiding discrimination in every sense. This allows minority students to hopefully feel more welcomed in the community that is Clermont College.
After discussing equality and training for staff and faculty, the document that was provided begins talking about technology. At any college, the technology that is available to students is vital, and Clermont wants to focus on making improvements in this area. It’s also important that student safety be a primary concern. One example of the college attempting something new in this regard is the student-employed campus watch. Those jobs were created to better assist the campus police officers in their day-to-day duties, and having these campus watch students makes many other students feel much more secure as they go about their classes, both day and night.
Staff and faculty work together in many ways to make Clermont College operate. This includes having meetings to see what they believe students would like to see changed, removed, or added. This part of the document discusses how the community of workers at Clermont must “strengthen our internal communications and transparency.” So, it is evident that the administration would like students and community members to be more involved with their school. It’s important that both staff and faculty improve to get better at communicating more effectively, with each other and with students; this will likely, in turn, lead to better retention.
One of the most important issues at Clermont currently regards our finances, and more specifically, the budget. Fewer students are attending Clermont compared to past years, so the institution is bringing in less money. However, the more significant issue is that UCC is still spending around the same amount in its budget. In the 2017 fiscal year, the college had a total income of approximately over twenty-six million dollars. In the same year, they spent two million dollars over the budget, including all their expenses. In the 2018 fiscal year, UCC predicts it will bring in about the same amount predicting to earn around the same amount as in 2017, but now, they are also predicting they will only be over their budget by about $200,000.
Clearly, this is a major issue that needs to be addressed. That is why the dean has started cutting programs and other expenditures from the budget. As an example, the English department has lost over ten thousand dollars in funding due to budget cuts. In total, the budget for the fiscal year has already been cut by $524,214, and the administration is looking to cut another half a million dollars. Budget cuts are never a good sign for a business; however, it is wise that they have taken these measures, to keep the college solvent.
As a way to bring in more income, the college does have the option of charging more for tuition. However, a move like this could also be detrimental, since it could cause fewer students to choose UCC. Another option for the university is to request more financial support from Clifton, and to request additional money from the government. Currently, Clermont has about 5.7 million dollars in their reserves. This may seem like a great deal to many of us, but if the college continues to lose close to two million dollars every year, these reserves could be quickly depleted.
The tenth and final item on Clermont’s list concerns what many colleges are trying to focus on right now: to “continue our commitment to freedom of expression and equity and inclusiveness-reflecting the diversity of our region.” Clermont College wants anyone that is currently attending, as well as prospective students, to be comfortable feel safe on campus. Clermont has tried to address this issue with their funding of clubs. With clubs, students can express themselves within their group of friends. An addition to the social side of the club, the college will give each authorized club $75.00 to spend. This, of course, is limited to benefitting the organization. However, Clermont recognizes the importance that everybody has on campus, and that is what they are trying to promote.
One of the most important areas for any university is its library. While the use of them is changing, especially in the youth and with the introduction of the Internet, the research that can be done at a library is still of a much higher quality. This is mainly because there are librarians on staff that help students find exactly what they are looking for in a quick and orderly fashion. Another perk of using the library over the Internet is that it is usually more reliable information. Anyone can post anything online, but it is much more difficult to get a book in a university’s library that has poor information.
In just four years, the library at UC Clermont has vastly improved with help from its director, Katie Foran-Mulcahy. She was promoted from Assistant Director to Director when her boss retired. When she became the director in January of 2014 one of the first items she introduced was library surveys. These polls occur every January and are used to find out what students would like to see improved or added to the library; they are the most important influencer in deciding what needs to be added or changed in the library.
In Foran-Mulcahy’s first year as the director, there were many basic renovation changes, such as new carpet, paint, chairs, an improved magazine section, and a new light in the atrium. That light was one of the most useful additions because in the winter, when there was less natural light in the evening, students were complaining that they could not see what they were trying to work on. Her second year was arguably the most important in terms of renovations because the electricity was updated; there are now over 150 power outlets in the library. Foran-Mulcahy said that before this up
date, there may have been one outlet that a student could use, but they would have to unplug a computer to do so. Before 2016, the help desk was directly in front of the windows where the entrance is. This caused people to overlook it because it was practically on top of the doors.
After they moved the desk to where it is now, they saw a notable increase in the number of students who asked questions.
Currently, Foran-Mulcahy does not know exactly what additional renovations are going to be done to the library because the survey recently ended. However, she did mention that she believes that the second floor of the library will be updated. This could include more study rooms for groups and individuals. Something that students also seem to want is a reservation system for the study rooms. In the prior year, the survey results showed that about half of students wanted the system, while the other half were opposed. This year, Foran-Mulcahy believes that a system where students would have to check out space may be implemented.
Another perk of using these surveys is that the data can be used in presentations for prospective donors. This is especially useful because it shows exactly what students want. In these presentations, she uses both quantitative and quantitative data. In terms of how she uses them, quantitative data come from the surveys and shows exactly what the library’s users want, while qualitative data is something that a student or faculty recommends to her. Foran-Mulcahy discussed how she “has a lot of data from the surveys, which makes it really easy to tell the story of the library.” Foran-Mulcahy has been at the forefront of finding her own donors and sponsors. She knows that money can be tight at Clermont and she takes initiative in courting individuals who would be interested in offering financial assistance to the library.
Foran-Mulcahy also easily identified the two major issues UC Clermont is facing: retention and graduation rates. In her position, she can help these problems, on the academic side. She has designed the library so it is focused on academics and studying, while also remaining casual and welcoming. There are always activities such as coloring sheets and puzzles. These sorts of things can help students reduce their stress, so they can focus on their studies. Foran-Mulcahy said, “The library is a teaching partner with research help.” While she cannot directly have students graduate or stay at the school from year to year, her influence on students through what the library provides is undeniable.
Similarly to the college’s strategic plan, Foran-Mulcahy has developed a strategic plan specific to the library. This plan was established in the 2015 academic year. There are five goals in this plan: space, learning tools, teaching and learning, campus presence, and collaboration. These objectives are in place to make sure that the library continues to improve, as well as to make sure it is working in the advantage of students.
The first goal concerns “space,” and is meant to “cultivate a welcoming library space devoted to research, study, and collaboration.” This has led to such things as remodeling storage cabinets, so laptops can charge before they are rented by students, remodeling the second floor, as well as other improvements. The second goal regards “learning tools,” and exists as a way for the library employees to keep track of the technology in the space. Students can rent laptops, iPads, chargers, and several other devices. Teaching and learning are all about making the library as academic as possible. One goal for this category involves making sure the website for
research is up to date, as well as the library’s Blackboard page. The “campus presence” section is dedicated to making sure that students know what is happening in the library. The staff uses social media, email, and other ways of communication to keep the students aware and informed on matters related to the library. The final goal, “collaborations,” was set up as a way for the library to work with other colleges and to share knowledge and information. Being active in digital literacy and technology and serving on UC Clermont’s ad hoc committees are examples of how this is done.
Once the dean’s office and the select staff members release the strategic plan for the college, Foran-Mulcahy will create a new plan for the library that will fall into line with the college’s plan. She said, “A strategic plan is usually good for three to five years; we are on year three, so it isn’t too outdated, but it certainly needs updated.”
Several studies have been conducted that show association between a college’s library and the retention rates of students. One of these studies, by Adam Murray, Ashley Ireland, and Jana Hackathorn, was carried out at James Madison University. One conclusion of this study indicated that “for freshmen, checking items out, using electronic library resources, using the communication center, and using the library computer labs were all positive predictors of a greater likelihood of retention.” Of course, this should not be a surprise, given the reliability of information expected from a college or university’s library. This study also concluded that the students who were the most invested in their education would tend to use their resources, such as the library, more than their peers. The retention rate of any given institution is often an issue at many schools around the country, including Clermont, but what makes Clermont so different is our library’s dedication to assisting with this challenge. As Foran-Mulcahy correctly noted, “Retention is everyone’s job.”
It is evident that Dean Bauer and all the staff and faculty working with him are aware of the challenges that Clermont currently faces. While some of the major issues are out of the control of the college to some extent, there is still a concentrated effort underway to address as many challenges as they can, to effectively counteract outside forces beyond their control. While it does appear that the unemployment rate and the high school graduation rates are headed in the right direction for Clermont, the staff and faculty want to make sure they are providing the best possible education and environment possible for student success.
The college has been experiencing some difficult times the last several years, but that has not driven away anyone from the challenge. According to the information from the administration at Clermont, regional campus enrollment is down across the state of Ohio. Regardless, Clermont is one of the best when it comes to this category.
According to almost all the statistics from inside of the college, as well as from the outside, it appears that Clermont is on its way back up. With the unemployment rate increasing, Clermont should see an influx of older students to the college. The high school graduation rate is most likely the key culprit in Clermont’s enrollment problem. However, within two years (2020), the school has predicted that it could be all the way back up to 4,000 students. This has the potential to create something close to what the college had during the Great Recession—an incredibly large and successful student population. Although it may not be as big of a student population, it looks like it is heading in that direction.
Because of its size and location, Clermont will always struggle when those outside forces are against them. However, Clermont is doing what it can regarding renovations and recruiting to have more students join the college and with the rolling enrollment, students can begin their college careers during any semester. At many universities, students can only begin their classes in the fall semester. Clermont College is doing everything that it can to increase the number of students that enroll and graduate. It does take time for a school like Clermont to regain the number of students that it once had. However, with the unemployment and high school graduation rates favoring the college in the future, it looks like Clermont is on the way back up.