Pulaski Tech forges on in reorganization

Posted: February 3, 2018 at 4:30 a.m.

The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College enrollment

The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College enrollment

The University of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical College is undergoing a reorganization that will, among other things, eliminate four administrative positions and streamline the path to help students pursue certificates or degrees, college officials said Friday.

The action comes after the college finished putting together a strategic plan that seeks to cultivate student success, ensure faculty and staff excellence, create systems of organizational effectiveness and telling its story. Once that process was over, campus groups began looking into how to reach those goals and concentrated on having a "strong, functional foundation," Chancellor Margaret Ellibee said.

"First and foremost, we have to look at the reorganization in relation to successfully accomplishing priorities and objectives in our strategic plan," she said. "To do that, we have to have an organization that is aligned with those priorities so we can achieve them."

Pulaski Tech is not getting rid of any academic programs, the college said.

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The reorganization did not stem from the college's sixth straight year of declining enrollment, she said. Instead, the 6,038-student school -- the second-largest community college in the state after Northwest Arkansas Community College, based in Bentonville -- would have carried out the same procedures: continuously evaluating for efficiency and effectiveness, she said.

Pulaski Tech is carrying out the reorganization as the state changes how it funds its public colleges and universities using a method that focuses on students progressing and completing certificate and degree programs.

It also comes as Gov. Asa Hutchinson has called on two-year colleges to keep tuition increases at or below the consumer price index, which at last check was 1.8 percent, state Department of Higher Education Director Maria Markham has said. Fees are not addressed in the governor's request.

Higher education institutions mainly get money from tuition and fee revenue and state appropriations, while smaller portions come from private donations, grants and contracts. At Pulaski Tech, nearly three-fifths of its $43.6 million budget is made up of tuition and fee income, the college said.

As a part of the reorganization, Pulaski Tech has realigned its academic divisions from six to three: the Division of Science and Mathematics, the Division of Technical and Professional Studies, and the Division of Arts, Humanities and Social Studies. The college's six academic deans will also be reduced to three.

Of the six deans, two are holding interim titles and will return to faculty positions, while the remaining four can apply for the three newly configured academic dean positions, Ellibee said. Only employees who have had their positions eliminated and replaced with redesigned functions will need to reapply, she said.

The school also eliminated the position of vice chancellor of student services, said Tara Smith, vice chancellor for finance and chief financial officer. That position will be split into two new dean positions, one for student affairs and another for admissions and financial aid, Smith said.

The redesign has also changed all three associate vice chancellor positions to director roles, and some of the vice chancellor positions were also reclassified as either directors or deans, she said.

If job functions did not change, employees will not experience changes in salary. One position -- the dean of enrollment services -- will have a lower salary because it no longer has as many entities under its umbrella. Two positions -- chief information officer and academic partnerships -- will get a bump in salary because they will have more responsibilities.

All changes will take place at the end of this fiscal year, June 30, and Ellibee said she wants to have all positions filled by the start of the next fiscal year, July 1.

The college is expecting an annual savings of $270,000 from the eliminations alone, a conservative estimate, Smith said. Because of the reclassifications, the college could save more if positions open up. As an example, she said, the college will pay deans -- a different salary range than those for vice chancellors or associate vice chancellors -- between $76,000 and $96,000 annually based on experience.

Pulaski Tech put the wheels into motion for the reorganization at the start of the fall semester, bringing together its strategic planning committee, along with staff and faculty from all academic areas, said Marla Strecker, the college's provost and executive vice chancellor. The college held focus groups and town hall meetings and sent out online surveys to the campus community, she said.

"Every institution, every organization will need to constantly re-evaluate its process," she said, "and in that re-evaluation, we found ways to make it more student-friendly and customer-friendly."

As an example, Ellibee pointed to how the college placed workforce development and training and community education under the Division of Technical and Professional Studies. College officials thought the strong workforce training program could help inform to a greater degree the curriculum for technical programs, she said.

When asked how the reorganization would help students, the chancellor said that the groups, in looking at the current structure, determined the college could streamline student on-boarding and enrollment processes.

A frequently asked questions page on the college's website said making internal systems more efficient "will create external systems and processes that make it easier for us to aid and support students on their way to academic success, graduation and work."

On Monday, the college will start Phase Two and begin developing master plans for academics and facilities.

"We will follow the same inclusive, transparent, collaborative process as we did with [the reorganization] and invite our colleagues to participate again," Ellibee said, adding she hoped to have both plans done by this summer. Then, "we can get people moved, signage, you name it -- everything is in place and operation to begin by the fall semester."

Pulaski Technical Chancellor Margaret Ellibee is shown in this file photo.

Tara Smith is shown in this file photo.

Metro on 02/03/2018