President Steven Ender kicked off the new year by congratulating Grand Rapids Community College faculty and staff on the last year’s accomplishments at this morning’s opening day ceremony. This is the last opening day speech that Ender will give before his retirement in June.
The accomplishments Ender highlighted included:
- The lack of an “entitled” mentality from students on campus
- The continuing technological development around campus
- State funding has stayed the same, not declined
- Property tax revenue has increased, and is expected to continue doing that
- Many donations from community members
“From a financial perspective, we stand in a fairly stable position,” Ender said, adding that this is unlike eight years ago when he started as GRCC president.
Ender also gave room to acknowledge his successor, Bill Pink, who is slated to be the college’s president this summer.
“One of the (college’s) greatest strengths is Bill Pink,” Ender said. “(He) brings energy … intellect, desire and drive to be the best president this institution has ever seen … It’s that energy that I admire because I’ve lost some of mine.”
Ender congratulated the college for its recent accreditation.
“If GRCC is not accredited, no college in America should be accredited,” Ender said. “We are in a very strong position when it comes to our relationship with the accreditor world. We should be very proud of that.”
Provost Laurie Chesley and her team members presented the college’s new website design, and encouraged department heads to make their pages on the website more accessible.
Ender added that there are some construction projects that are top priority. These include the Fieldhouse, the Main Building – where Ender wants to create a “one-stop shop” student services center – and the Applied Technology Center.
More seamless academic pathways and technology for student needs were among the things Ender said the college needs to improve on.
The president also encouraged faculty and staff to be aware of the college’s opportunities for expansion. This includes expanding community college services into Ottawa County, where Ender said students are paying double for out of district tuition.
“There’s a long road in front of us but I can foresee the day that Grand Rapids Community College (expands beyond Kent County),” Ender said.
Ender encouraged the college to continue expanding Middle College programs, where he said there is an interest on all levels, all the way to the governor’s office.
“This is a growing enterprise,” Ender said, explaining that students in these programs graduate in their 13th year with a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.
The development of workforce programs around community needs was another topic Ender said is important. He said there are people between the ages of 16-36 years old without a diploma who need skills to make a living.
“That’s a rich, fertile market and it’s one that continues to be untapped,” Ender said.
Finally, Ender concluded with three points that the administration need to be continually working on.
- The continuing decline in enrollment. Ender said it is dropping slower, and we still have yet to see the “floor” of the decline.
- State funding. Ender said with the new Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, GRCC has an opportunity to bring her in on the work the college does.
- Global competition. Ender said this is the “reality of 2017,” that tuition prices are competitive all over the world.
“I am very proud of this institution,” Ender concluded. “You have capable leadership across the board … from maintenance to the president.”