During the July Mineral Area College Board of Trustees meeting, President Dr. Joe Gilgour gave a report on the past year and his vision moving forward.
Although reversing the downward trend of enrollment is the top priority, athletics was a major focus during his report.
The first highlights in his year in review were the back-to-back national titles for the men’s cross country team, the men’s basketball team advancing to the national tournament as the top seed, and men’s basketball player Malevy Leons winning the NJCAA athlete of the year award.
He also talked specifically about the first-year of the college’s athletic viability initiative.
According to Gilgour, this means that the athletics programs are required to return a portion of their expenses back to the college.
“They do this in the form of enrollment and College Park (on-campus housing) mostly,” he explained. “So they might bring in a student walk-on, for instance, that's going to pay their way to be on the team. So that's their contribution. It could be A+ scholarships. It could be Pell Grants.”
When he arrived at MAC in 2019, Gilgour said there were five major sports – men’s and women’s basketball, volleyball, baseball, and softball – that were costing the college $1 million and only returning about $50,000 through enrollment, housing revenue, and fundraisers.
So they initiated the athletic viability program, in which there are less athletic scholarships given and student-athletes are required to live on campus.
“At the time, that million dollars, almost every athlete was on scholarship,” he said.
Now, with the addition of men’s and women’s soccer, MAC is spending $1.2 million on the major sports.
In the first year of the program, Gilgour said, each team was expected to return a different percentage amount, depending on roster size and such. If they all met their expectations, they would bring in $575,000, about 51% of all the expenses.
“It's not something you see in the budget,” he explained. “You don’t see a budget item that says, ‘here's athletics returning $575,000.’ It's embedded. That money goes to pay salaries — the faculty members and staff members — and pay our debt and our bills. It's spread out through other impacts and that money does not go back to those athletic programs.”
In reality, he said, the athletics programs brought in 82% or $919,000.
“I don't know of any other college in the nation that does this: that holds their athletics to this kind of accountability and gets them to do this,” he said. “My previous institution (State Fair Community College) used this for one sport. And that was soccer, which is how I knew soccer would work here, because I stole it from them. We decided to use it for all sports. Nobody else does that. Nobody else uses it for all of theirs. We do and that's really impressive.”
Gilgour said he is really proud of the result and MAC will continue to do this moving forward.
The coaches have also been tremendous in the first year of the program, he added.
“You could probably imagine, as a coach, this is not something you really want to be a part of,” he said. “It's a lot of work. It takes a different approach to how you recruit and how you look at things. Our coaches really stepped up.”
Every sport exceeded their expectations, he said, and several sports brought in over 100% of their expenses, including soccer.
“Soccer brought in 130% of their expenses,” he continued. “Soccer has not cost this institution anything since we started it. It does not cost us a penny and that is really good. We wouldn't have started it unless we knew that could happen. That’s why we did it. It’s been an enrollment initiative.”
One of Gilgour’s priorities for the future is building a facility for the soccer teams and the softball team.
The softball team has been playing at the Park Hills Sports Complex. The soccer teams played at North County last season but will be playing at Engler Park in Farmington this season. In June, the board approved spending $21,000 to repair and improve Richardson Field at Engler Park for the teams to use.
He said they are hoping to raise $1 million in private funding through multi-year sponsorships and ads for the new fields.
They plan to put the softball field where the shooting range used to be and the soccer field where the trucks drivers currently are.
Having a softball field on campus will provide equity between the baseball and softball teams and will help with recruiting players, according to Gilgour.
More than 50 students are coming to MAC to play soccer.
“That's awesome,” he added. “That's not going to be sustainable if we don't a place for them to play.”
Gilgour said he would like to have the soccer field ready by next season (2022-23 school year). But he said it could be possible to get a softball field done in time for this upcoming season if the funding is there.
Increasing enrollment is his top priority. He said it is the umbrella over all of the other priorities, including the athletic fields.
“Over the past six years, at least, MAC has been on an enrollment decline,” he said. “COVID didn't help. This last year was rough. Obviously, it impacted that, but we were already on the decline and so we need to make some big changes. We've got to figure this out.”
In the latest enrollment report for Missouri’s public institutions, MAC’s enrollment has declined 43% from 2014 to 2019. There were 4,632 students enrolled in 2014 and 2,640 in 2019.
Enrollment is 30% of revenue for MAC, according to Gilgour.
“When you see enrollment decline, it really impacts our bottom line,” he continued. “We're not here to make a profit. We're not making money, but we’ve got to pay the bills.”
Most of their expenses are salaries, he said, which is why they had to make some tough decisions this year involving personnel. COVID plus the enrollment decline created a perfect storm.
“We have to reverse this trend,” he said. “It's not something we can wait years to do or hope it gets better. Hopes and prayers don't go very far in this.
"We've got to actually do something different and figure this out. So we've got a great team of people working on it. We're really making this a priority moving forward.”
When asked by Trustee Mit Landrum about how they are planning to do this, Gilgour said they are working on that. He said they did make some changes to advising this summer and have more people working on those things. They are also contacting students who started taking classes but didn't finish.
"But we are in that brainstorming phase right now," he added.
Program development is one of the ways they plan to address this, which is why the Career and Technical Education Center is on Gilgour’s priority list.
“We've been talking about this, I'm going to say, for years,” he explained. “I've been here two years. This was talked about before I got here, and we're going to get this done one way or the other. So we've been working with the St. Francois County IDA (Industrial Development Authority), the Farmington IDA, the county commissioners, city mayors. Business industry leaders across the region have come to us to say we need this to get done.”
The St. Francois County IDA hired a project manager to come in and give analysis on the programs and buildings. It will be $16 million for the cost of the building and five years of operation. They will offer six programs: HVAC, construction management, industrial maintenance, machine tool, welding, and CAD. Workforce development will also be in the building.
MAC has already secured $5 million in state funding for the tech center. They have two years to use the money.
Gilgour is hoping to get more funding through state, and possibly from the county, from federal COVID-relief money.
“There is COVID money in the county right now that can be used for economic development, workforce development, to get people back to work,” he added.
Fundraising and ballot measures could also be used.
The tech center will not be competition for current high school career centers, he said. It’s the next step for those students.
“We can help with that here and keep them local, getting good paying jobs here,” he said. “Our industry is telling us overwhelmingly, they need this in the community, that next step for training and for employee development.”
Also on Gilgour’s priority list is the Mineral Area Fine Arts Academy and salary equity.
After making the tough decision to eliminate the music and theater departments in December, he said it is important to support the Mineral Area Fine Arts Academy because it is the future of the arts at MAC.
“This will come back to MAC,” he explained. “That's the design of this: the foundation and building blocks to bring it back someday. It’s not going to be tomorrow or even this year, but it'll be something that comes back to Mineral Area College. It’s the foundation for arts to come back. So we're very thankful for this.”
As for salary equity, he said this is something a lot of colleges are dealing with.
“There's compression, where you've got people that have been here a long time and people that haven’t been that are very close to the same salary,” he explained. “We want to appreciate the value of our current employees. We're also struggling to hire people and bring them in at a competitive rate because of that compression. So this is something that needs to be fixed.
"But for the employees in the room, this will not be fixed overnight. Please spread the word, but it is a priority.”
He said one way to do this is to get back on their salary schedule. There have been a couple of cycles without raises due to the financial situation. He said they hope to do that moving forward.
“We need the enrollment to help with that,” he added. “There’s a chain reaction here.”
On average, compared to other rural community college, he said the faculty at MAC are paid pretty well.
“But internally, we don't have that equity in some areas,” he continued. “So we are working on investigating that and moving forward and fixing that.”
Back to his year in review, Gilgour’s non-athletic highlights included MAC’s COVID response, College Park student housing being at max capacity, improved policies to provide equity to maintenance and custodial staff, e-sports initial funding, and Missouri Community College Association awards.
In other business, the board of trustees:
- Approved requisitions for $18,673.42 to Medical Shipment LLC for Allied Health program supplies, which are paid for by student fees; $18,840 for 18 bottle fillers around campus, which will be paid for by Higher Education Relief Funding; $68,000 to Jenzabar for remote server management and cloud hosting; $14,000 to Viper Security for anti-virus programs; and $10,000 to Park Hills for the use of softball fields for the past five years.
- Approved a resolution to request the formation of a redistricting committee.
- Approved the revision of the holiday schedule to include Juneteenth.
- Heard the second reading of an updated revision to the board policy regarding disposition of assets but decided to wait to vote on it until the addition of board oversight is considered.
Nikki Overfelt-Chifalu is a reporter for the Daily Journal. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.