Hey, Southeast Technical Institute! Still wondering whom to can to cover your two-million-dollar deficit? Try Western Dakota Technical Institute’s solution: can your financial aid staff!
At Monday’s meeting, the Rapid City School Board axed WDTI’s three financial aid positions, as well as its library director. The Rapid City Journal reports that WDTI says consolidating positions so that the same people handle admissions, financial aid, and assessment will make life easier for students. Now-outgoing financial aid director Starla Russell says the consolidation is really retribution for honesty that put the school on accreditation probation:
“As you know, the school is in trouble,” Russell said to the Board during the public comment section of the meeting. “The probationary status is the mere outcome, in my belief, of a systemic problem at this school, and I do have a responsibility to speak up about it, so that you, as the governing board, can make an informed decision that’s beneficial for the students and the community.”
…“When the accreditation team came to campus last May,” Russell said, referring to the Higher Learning Commission team that assessed WDTI, “leadership preached that staff needed to be honest with this team.”
Russell said she and her office were forthcoming about the effectiveness of the school, though she would not elaborate on what those statements were. But the administration’s “demeanor” toward the financial aid department changed, Russell said, after the Higher Learning Commission announced its intention to place the school on probation.
“Meeting requests” with the president, Russell said, “went either unanswered, or she would not attend the meeting, leading to a reschedule to accommodate the president’s schedule, and still no show.”
[WDTI president Dr. Ann] Bolman said after the School Board meeting that it was Russell, not she, who didn’t reply to multiple requests for meetings [Mike Anderson, “WDTI Reorganization Causes Strife,” Rapid City Journal, 2016.04.12].
But Ms. Russell, your boss said in February that accreditation is irrelevant, so why on earth would she take so seriously comments that put that irrelevant accreditation in jeopardy?
The financial aid department does oversee the movement of a lot of money for a lot of students. I can understand the urge to consolidate functions—if staff can handle it, students will find it very convenient to discuss admissions questions and student loan and scholarship questions with the same person. However, getting rid of all three people who have handled those financial aid questions could create a knowledge gap that hinders service for current students. Those two-year students will turn over quickly, but a transition period or a redistribution of the staff cuts to keep at least one of the current financial aid people on the job might be wise.
By the way, Southeast Tech has four financial aid people: a director, two coordinators, and a secretary.