Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College strives to strike the right balance between addressing vacancies and finding ways to increase student enrollment.
At an OCtech Regional Committee meeting on April 19, OCtech President Dr. Walt Tobin reported 11 vacancies, six of which are temporary positions. The other five are full-time, publicly funded positions, or FTEs, including three in the Student Services Department.
Temporary grant positions include: Early College Counselor; interventionist at the beginning of the College; biology teacher; CNA/phlebotomy instructor; early childhood educator and administrative assistant for adult education.
FTE positions include: Criminal Justice Instructor; nursing instructor; financial aid counsellor; administrative assistant to student services, admissions counselor and recruiter.
“A lot of turnover. I think I’ll be blunt and say it has to do with salary. Some of these are for people who have had opportunities for promotion, and some are a combination of the two. We’re now in a generation where people don’t commit to many things, let alone an employer for an extended period of time,” Tobin said.
Area Commissioner David Rickenbaker asked what could be done to help OCtech’s Vice President of Student Services, Dr. Sandra Davis, manage recruitment and enrollment.
“What can we do to help Dr. Davis retain or hire more employees, or retain the employees she has so she doesn’t have all that turnover and then can work on enrollment?” It seems like a correlation I’ve been thinking about for six or nine months. She seems to have a lot of turnover,” Rickenbaker said.
“We have to find a way – or someone has to find a way – to give her the resources she needs to be able to keep a full staff,” he said.
Davis said: “Salary levels just have to go up if we’re going to be competitive with what’s currently on the market for full-time employees. When we even call to try to schedule interviews, we want to be transparent. We want to share what that hiring range is and oftentimes we get turned down before we can even invite them for an interview just because the hiring range doesn’t meet their expectations.”
“So it really starts for us with being able to offer a competitive annual salary,” she said.
OCtech Vice President of Finance Kim Huff said, “I was hoping that with the state in the position it is in this year with the amount of recurring and non-recurring funds that we believe are available for state agencies, there might be an opportunity this year to fix some of those (problems), and that hasn’t happened.”
Rickenbaker said: “That didn’t happen. … Here’s the thing. I don’t want Dr. Davis to get a little behind because enrollment is down when she can’t stay full because we can’t afford to pay people to stay in those positions.”
Tobin said: “We know that it’s easier for us to retain the ones we have than to try to get new ones. … So this whole concept of enrollment management is a twin function academic affairs / student services I understand what you’re saying, but it’s not just new people coming in. We have to keep the ones we have.
The president spoke about the college’s efforts to improve student growth, including everything from a Roadmap to College initiative, which includes campus tours of fifth-year students in Orangeburg and Calhoun counties, Aus. development of career academies which will begin this fall.
A parent meeting has been scheduled to discuss career academies, said Tobin, who also reported that OCtech deans are visiting public school district counselors for meetings, with another scheduled for May 19.
The President also gave highlights of the budget report from the State Senate Finance Committee.
“The system (South Carolina Technical College) requested $30 million from Senate finances. We were hoping to get $22 million, and we ended up with $7 million. So that’s $7 million in new recurring dollars coming into the system to go to the colleges. We’re going to have to have conversations,” Tobin said later.
He told the meeting that the House of Representatives budget included $1.7 million for the maintenance, renovation and replacement of the college and $8 million for the construction of an advanced manufacturing building. . The Senate budget, however, includes $4.7 million for maintenance and repairs and “a one-dollar placeholder for the building,” the president said.
“We think it’s a lot of money. The fact that there’s a placeholder for that, I think, is a good sign,” Tobin said.
The House budget includes $78 million in scholarships and labor grants, while the Senate budget provides $16 million.
“There’s still work to be done to make sure we get enough scholarships for students in the system,” Tobin said.