Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College is working to find the perfect balance between addressing staff vacancies and finding ways to grow student enrollment.
During an April 19 OCtech Area Commission meeting, OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin reported 11 vacancies, six of which are temporary grant positions. The remaining five are full-time state-funded, or FTE, positions, three of which are in the student services department.
The temporary grant positions include: Early College adviser; Early College interventionist; biology instructor; CNA/phlebotomy instructor; early childhood instructor and administrator assistant for adult education.
The FTE positions include: criminal justice instructor; nursing instructor; financial aid counselor; administrative assistant for student services, and an admissions counselor and recruiter.
“Lots of turnover. I think I’ll be frank and say some of it has to do with salary. Some of it has to do with folks who had promotional opportunities, and some of it is a combination of both. We’re in a generation now where folks don’t commit to many things, much less an employer for any extended period of time,” Tobin said.
Area Commissioner David Rickenbaker asked what could be done to help OCtech Vice President of Student Services Dr. Sandra Davis with recruiting and enrollment management.
“What can we do to help Dr. Davis be able to retain or hire more employees, or retain the employees that she has so that she does not have all this turnover and can then work on enrollment? That seems to be a correlation to me that I have been thinking about the last six or nine months. It seems that she has a lot of turnover,” Rickenbaker said.
“We need to figure out a way -- or somebody needs to figure out a way -- to give her the resources that she needs to be able to keep a full staff,” he said.
Davis said, “Salary levels have just got to increase if we're to be anywhere near being competitive to what's being offered right now in the marketplace for full-time employees. When we're calling to even try and schedule interviews, we want to be transparent. We want to share what that hiring range is and oftentimes we get denied before we can even invite them for an interview just because the hiring range isn't meeting their expectations."
"So it really starts for us with being able to offer a competitive annual salary,” she said.
OCtech Vice President of Finance Kim Huff said, "I was hopeful that, with the state in the position that it was in this year with the amount of recurring and nonrecurring funds we thought would be available to state agencies, it might would be an opportunity this year to address some of these (issues), and that has not happened."
Rickenbaker said, "That has not happened. ... Here's the thing. I don't want Dr. Davis catching a bunch of slack because enrollment is down when she can't stay fully staffed because we can't afford to pay people to stay in those positions."
Tobin said, "We know that it's easier for us to keep the ones we have than to try to get new ones. ... So this whole enrollment-management concept is an academic affairs/student services-paired function. I understand what you're saying, but it's not just the new ones coming in. We’ve got to keep the ones we got."
The president talked about the college’s efforts to enhance student growth, including everything from a Roadmap to College initiative, which includes campus visits from fifth-graders in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties, to the development of career academies to begin this fall.
A parent meeting has been scheduled to discuss the career academies, said Tobin, who also reported that OCtech deans are visiting public school district counselors for meetings, with another scheduled for May 19.
The president also gave highlights from the state Senate Finance Committee budget report.
“The (South Carolina Technical College) system had a request for $30 million to Senate Finance. We were hoping to get $22 million, and we ended up with $7 million. So that’s $7 million in new recurring dollars coming into the system to go out to the colleges. We’re going to have to have some conversations,” Tobin later said.
He reported during the meeting that the House of Representatives budget included $1.7 million for maintenance, renovation and replacement at the college and $8 million for the construction of an advanced manufacturing building. The Senate budget, however, includes $4.7 million for maintenance and repair and “a placeholder of a dollar for the building,” the president said.
“We think that that’s good money. The fact that there’s a placeholder for it, I think, is a good sign,” Tobin said.
The House budget includes $78 million in workforce scholarships and grants, while the Senate budget includes $16 million for it.
“There’s still some work to be done to make sure we get ample scholarship funding for students in the system” Tobin said.