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Board OKs 2020-21 budget, appointments to CAC Board

The Pennsylvania College of Technology Board of Directors on Thursday approved the college’s 2020-21 budget, tuition and fees; ratified appointments to the Community Arts Center Board; and authorized gifts to the City of Williamsport and the Williamsport Area School District.

The $156.6 million total budget includes a 2.62% increase in combined tuition and fees and identical 1.5% increases for the rates charged by Residence Life, for on-campus housing, and Dining Services, for meal plans.

The total budget reflects a 2.41% decrease in spending from 2019-20; the $112 million operating budget is 4.88% less than the current year. The college’s $26.7 million state appropriation – representing 17.1% of the total budget and 23.9% of the operating budget – saw no increase this year.

Also included in the 2020-21 budget, following board approval, are gifts of $100,000 to the City of Williamsport and $35,000 to the Williamsport Area School District. The gifts are reevaluated annually.

The budget does not reflect the full impact of COVID-19 because it’s impossible to predict its final toll, said Suzanne T. Stopper, senior vice president for finance/CFO. She said the budget can be revised later, if necessary.

“There are many challenges we’re going to be facing in the fall. … we’ll be ready to act,” she told the board.

President Davie Jane Gilmour said budgeting for the college was made less complicated by having a state budget approved so early this year. While the state budget was approved for only the first five months for most line items, the state’s public higher-education institutions, like Penn College, were funded for the full year.

She said knowing what the college is receiving for its state appropriation funding is “a very important constant for us,” and she thanked board Chairman Sen. Gene Yaw and board member Rep. Garth Everett for the quick action taken by the state Legislature.

Of the gift to the city, Gilmour said the college is working cooperatively on a range of initiatives with new Mayor Derek Slaughter and city government.

“We have a great relationship with the city right now, and we would like to see that continue,” she said.

Thursday's board meeting recapped for Penn College communityIn other business, the board approved appointment of the members of the Community Arts Center Board of Directors. They are: Gilmour, Stopper, William J. Martin, Patrick Marty, A.J. Lacomba and Carolyn Strickland. The Arts Center is a wholly owned subsidiary of the college.

Randy J. Zangara, dean of college transitions/first-year initiatives, presented to the board on “Career Day, the Virtual Way,” the college’s response to the cancellation of this spring’s Career Day activities due to the pandemic.

Virtual Career Day is geared toward students in grades 7 to 9 but is open to all. Students may choose multiple areas to explore from a list that includes career clusters from the Pennsylvania Department of Education. They are: Agriculture, Food & Natural Resources; Architecture & Construction; Arts, A/V Technology & Communications; Business, Management & Administration; Health Science; Hospitality & Tourism; Human Services; Information Technology; Law, Public Safety & Security; Manufacturing; Marketing, Sales & Service; Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics; and Transportation, Distribution & Logistics.

The website created for Virtual Career Day has logged 3,500 page views, Zangara said. Positive responses have been received from educators statewide and beyond, including from a welding instructor in New Mexico who is writing the activity into his school’s curriculum.

“It really has provided a tool that we can use for our K-12 community – no matter what the circumstances,” Zangara said.

Michael J. Reed, vice president for academic affairs/provost, and Strickland, vice president for enrollment management and associate provost, presented on “Campus Conversations with the Vice Presidents.”

Reed said there has been genuine excitement expressed about the college’s plans to reopen for in-person instruction in Fall 2020. He said parents have been told about specific protocols that will be implemented for social distancing in classrooms and labs, personal protective equipment that will be required for students and employees, and other adaptions that will be needed to ensure the safety of the campus community. He noted families have discussed “gap years” in the enrollment process and have asked how late they can wait before making decisions for the fall.

Strickland said the effort “highlights the importance of communicating with families at this time” as they weigh their options.

“Families are really challenged with making the hard decisions right now,” she said. “They’re just unsure.”

Despite the uncertainties, Strickland said many parents, when told of all the precautions being taken, have expressed confidence in the college’s plans to reopen.

Joanna K. Flynn, dean of curriculum/instruction, updated the board on the Master of Science in Nursing – Nursing Education major, which will be offered 100% online. Expected completion time for those enrolled in the program is two years as a part-time student.

The program received approvals from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education in February and from the college’s Curriculum Committee in April, Flynn said. The first cohort of students in the program will begin their studies in Fall 2021, Gilmour told the board.

Career opportunities for graduates of the program include work in a variety of areas such as postsecondary education, staff development, home health care, hospitals, and state and federal agencies.

In her comments to the board, Gilmour also addressed the fall reopening. She spoke of the Connections new-student orientation being offered virtually this year, classroom and lab protocols (with social distancing made easier by the college’s small class sizes) and more. She noted that a wide range of health-related resources are available from UPMC Susquehanna.

“I’m confident we will be ready to start the fall semester,” she said, adding, “It won’t be without adaptation and change.”

The president also updated the board about the worldwide media coverage for welding faculty and students’ participation in the Vatican’s “Living Chapel” project; the recent ROTC commissioning ceremony, which was held virtually; and the college’s plans to offer 15 separate in-person commencement ceremonies for spring and summer graduates over three days in August.

In his comments, Yaw said he is encouraged that the college is moving ahead with its budget and with its plans to reopen, because they help to “eliminate the fear factor” associated with COVID-19.

“We’re opening. We’re going to go forward. We figured out a way to do it,” he said.

The next regularly scheduled Board of Directors meeting will be held Thursday, Aug. 6, at the Lumley Aviation Center.

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