This St. Cloud Times article highlights a flaw in President Potter’s plan to revitalize St. Cloud State’s enrollment and budget crises. Here’s what tipped things off:

Potter said innovative thinking will help develop new programs and revitalize existing programs.

There’s nothing wrong with developing new programs or revitalizing existing programs. It’s just that creating new programs takes time. With a $9,542,000 deficit and with enrollment down more than 20% since its peak in FY2010, there’s a need for a quick turnaround.

Starting a new program literally takes years. It’s impossible to start a new program without figuring out if there’s a demand for the program. If there isn’t a demand, obviously, then it’s foolish to take another step. If there is a demand, then the next step is to hire a person to lead the program. That requires a search, which takes time. After that, the person hired to lead this new program needs to develop the course schedule, then develop the curriculum for each of those courses.

Developing the curriculum takes quite a bit of time because you’re developing curriculum for everything from freshman-level classes through graduation classes. That doesn’t include the classes that students need for their major that are taught in other departments.

In other words, President Potter’s so-called solution to this deficit crisis would take 3-5 years at minimum. That isn’t a solution. That’s smooth-sounding spin that doesn’t fix the problem. There’s a good chance President Potter’s solution would pass the buck to his successor.

Additional time is required to market the program and build a solid student base. In the end, there is no guarantee that after “you build it, they will come” to SCSU. At that point, it’s still a hit-or-miss proposition. A former supporter of the aviation program noted that the aviation program curriculum is still on the books at SCSU. It could be restarted relatively quickly. Better yet, with the major airline pilot shortage and the immediate demand for drone pilots, it’s logical that SCSU consider restarting the aviation program. It would quickly boost SCSU’s enrollment. The payroll and other costs of the program are modest, meaning the program would likely quickly reduce SCSU’s deficit.

It’s important to note that this deficit isn’t a problem. It’s a crisis:

Potter says the school’s budget health depends on how much money the Legislature grants the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities System.

That’s a frightening statement, especially in light of the fact that President Potter has made a series of questionable financial decisions. His lease with the Wedum Foundation has cost SCSU $7,700,000 over the first 5 years of the contract.

President Potter’s insistence that SCSU’s declining enrollment was the result of an intentional right-sizing cost SCSU millions of dollars in tuition revenues since FY2010. It’s worse considering the fact that President Potter is clearly indicating that this wasn’t an intentional right-sizing, that it was just his administration’s inability to right the enrollment ship.

Here’s the final criticism I’ll make in this post. When President Potter told the St. Cloud Times’ Editorial Board that the contract with the JA Wedum Foundation was a success, it highlighted the fact that President Potter was either being exceptionally dishonest or he was totally clueless.

President Potter knew this major deficit was heading in SCSU’s direction. This didn’t come as a surprise. At minimum, it’s shouldn’t have been a surprise. Enrollment was tanking. President Potter knew that the Wedum Foundation lease was costing the University millions of dollars a year because that’s what it did while it was open. In 2013, the legislature passed a tuition freeze for MnSCU universities.

President Potter is attempting to spin his way out of getting blamed for his mismanagement of SCSU. History will write the final chapter on his legacy. I wouldn’t bet history will be kind considering how frequently he mishandled SCSU’s financial responsibilities.

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