Staring directly into the face of growing school debt, a nationally dwindling collegiate enrollment rate, and a society battling systemic injustices, new Bucks President Dr. Felicia Ganther is prepared to lead the college to a place of positivity and success.
In her first interview with the Centurion since assuming the presidency over the summer, Dr. Ganther spoke of her plans to increase diversity among students and staff, and her focus on reducing the college’s debt and boosting enrollment.
When it comes to diversity, Dr. Ganther feels that students from different cultural backgrounds “need a sense of belonging” and that we “need more representatives from all the cultures.”
To aid this, Dr. Ganther plans to work with community leaders for support, ensure that hiring practices attract quality employees and to look at recruitment strategies to reach all cultures.
According to Dr. Ganther, Bucks is in the middle of a debt crisis that has reached “more than $6 million.” While this could be scary for Bucks faculty and staff, Dr. Ganther’s first goal to tackle the debt is “to maintain all employees.”
Aside from this, she plans to work on recruitment of new students, acquire grants for students, help bring back students who have not finished programs, and watch general spending. She is not above “pausing certain efforts to ensure resources and educators are available.”
In terms of the nationally dwindling enrollment rate, Dr. Ganther understands that the school needs to be attractive to potential students.
Hit hard by the pandemic, Bucks’ enrollment has plunged over the last several years: In Fall of 2020 there was an 8 percent drop from 2019, and in Fall 2021 there was a 12 percent decrease from 2020.
This means Bucks enrollment has fallen roughly 20 percent since 2019.
Community college enrollment nationwide has been gutted by the pandemic. According to NPR, preliminary data show enrollment is down 5.6 percent nationwide this Fall. In the Fall of 2020, community college enrollment fell by roughly 10 percent nationally — a loss of over 544,200 students compared with the Fall of 2019.
Dr. Ganther said Bucks has been working directly with the Ruffalo Noel Levitz enrollment consulting firm. As a school, “we will be looking at what types of students to seek out, how to grow workplace offerings, and how to offer high demand occupational pathways.”
An interesting alternative that was also discussed dealt with experimental program and course offerings. With the number of differences among students in higher education, it is impossible to expect that everyone be available at all the same times.
Dr. Ganther thinks there could be potential in offering weekend classes for students who can’t take classes during the week. She also tossed around the idea of an 18-month associate’s degree.
With regards to providing students with a proper education and experience, Dr. Ganther coined what she calls “The Bucks Promise.” This refers to a level of success she would like to see from programs and students. “Follow our guidelines and you will succeed. We will help you succeed.”
As a message to members of the Bucks community who are nervous about the future, Dr. Ganther would like to encourage everyone to stay positive and have fun.
But, she added, they must also understand that “it’s game time” and just “going through the motions” will not be enough to achieve the necessary outcome.”