Reprioritizing our Priorities is our Priority

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During a recent conversation with a colleague at another institution, we started to talk about how a college president decides what is MOST important? He shared with me a recent “Perspectives” piece that he had posted to his campus community. His university was facing special challenges as they prepared to host their first Thursday night football game. Out of concern for faculty, students, staff, television fans, the ESPN family of networks, fans visiting the beautifully renovated stadium, and the surrounding community, the president issued the following bold proclamation:

“In an effort to address those challenges, I solicited input from our athletic director as to best industry practices from around the country. I also have reached out to the Faculty Senate Executive Committee as well as the Deans Council for their input on this important issue. After taking all recommendations into account, I have authorized that attendance to all classes the morning of Oct. 31 be made optional at the discretion of faculty and that all afternoon classes that day be canceled as part of our efforts to ensure the safety and ease of travel throughout campus for faculty, staff, students and fans.”

Inspired by his memo, and after consulting with Assistant Provost Maxine Gauleiter, I am pleased to announce that Willard College will be recommitting itself to “best industry practices.” Our goal will be to better align Willard College with the standards of excellence that mark our nation’s premium degree granting institutions.

As a step toward achieving this lofty goal, Willard College will become the first institution of its kind to provide in-house student loans. For several years, we have looked closely at the trends in student loan and debt. The lost opportunity costs of not providing our students with accessible loans have been tremendous. Willard College Opportunity Borrowings offer three invaluable services to our young people. First, the WCOB is convenient. Students will borrow money from the same institution that provides them with the purchased services. Second, the WCOB will offer competitive rates, and student and parent can negotiate a rate that fits with their lifestyle needs. For this reason, Admissions and Finance have been merged, and will team together to help attractive prospective students find a way to Willard College. Third, the Borrowings come with the Willard College guarantee of Lifetime Excellence.

No changes in finances make sense without taking a fresh look at the academic side of the Willard experience. Last year’s report on our unfavorable graduation rates prompted Provost Videla to consider what kinds of solutions are emerging in our sector. The most exciting model to emerge is Florida Coastal School of Law’s Assured Outcomes PartnershipSM. The system is full of guarantees for each year of the student’s career and culminates with the final guarantee!

“Students who fulfill the bar exam preparation requirements but do not pass the exam on their first attempt will receive supplemental prep courses at no cost, plus a living expense while preparing for the next exam administration. Students who, once again, complete bar exam preparation requirements, but do not pass after their second attempt will receive a $10,000 reimbursement from the school. This assurance is being made available to those full-time students beginning their studies in Spring 2013 and thereafter.”

We find the program extremely promising, except for the reimbursement which does not fit with the traditions and ethos of Willard College. In consultation with high level academic officers of the college, Willard is preparing to offer the Willard College Graduation Guarantee.™ In an upcoming “Sharing Perspectives”  I will provide details.

Sincerely, President Henry Cotton

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