As I serve Albany State University, I spend my time making decisions that not only impact the university today, but also have implications for the future. My approach to leadership and decision making is characterized by the use of data, information, and the values necessary for an outstanding institution of higher education. You will find that I am an avid consumer of data and use it in nearly every decision. My goal is to position ASU to be one of the best institutions in the nation. As decisions are made, please know that they are all done with this goal in mind.
This week, I’ve considered our path to the top. Dr. J.W. Holley said it best in his book, You Can’t Build a Chimney from the Top. As I apply his thoughts to our current posture, I see our success being built one brick at a time. We must become more efficient and effective in our business processes and customer service leveraging our assets for the best possible outcomes for all ASU constituents. How we regard our customers (students) and enhance our efficiency, will not only impact us today, but will have a tremendous impact on the future success of Albany State. Achieving success is more challenging today given the changing economics of higher education, but I am convinced that we have the building blocks to be the best, despite our external and internal challenges.
The greatest challenge that I see is the need for financial support. The University System of Georgia has experienced major reductions in its budget over the last few years. Current funding is now at $6,082 per student, down from a high of $8,294 in 2002. [i]In 1987, the State of Georgia provided 62.6 percent of the cost to educate a student here at Albany State. By 2012, that percentage dropped to 31.7 percent, a decline of 30.9 percent. [ii]With such drastic decreases coupled with dramatic increases in college costs, we must find ways to build a culture of collaboration amongst ourselves, our alumni and the business community to provide support for our students which ultimately leads to their future success.
Internally, we must do a self-assessment to identify our strengths and areas in need of improvement. I strategically used the word customer earlier because our students have choices today. Traditionally, Historically Black Colleges and Universities were the only schools students of color could attend, but now they can attend any university in this country. In fact, the Ivies such as Harvard are in bidding wars wooing them with incentives. We may not have the financial wherewithal to match Harvard, Princeton and Yale, but we can offer to students the care, attention, mentoring and nourishing environment that set HBCUs apart from the pack for generations. Let us model the examples set by our founder and his contemporaries in education. This should be our goal and our destiny.