Fort Lewis College President Tom Stritikus reported steady enrollment and a strong fiscal position Friday during a Board of Trustees meeting.
Stritikus shared his optimism for the future and expressed “incredible gratitude” toward staff members and faculty who have gone back to working in-person on campus and have made continued operations possible. He also said the college was doing well financially.
During the pandemic, colleges and universities across the country have struggled financially. Many have had to deal with budget cuts in the face of economic uncertainty and others faced low enrollment numbers as a result of the pandemic.
FLC, however, is an anomaly.
This year, the college is in one of the strongest fiscal positions it has been in recent years, and its enrollment in the spring is consistent with last spring. Last semester, enrollment numbers were actually up.
“I think we can emerge stronger from the pandemic than when we went in,” Stritikus said.
Amid his optimism, Stritikus acknowledged that the college’s current level of financial security is unique to the current state of higher education. He said there are still uncertainties that could affect how FLC will fare during the rest of the pandemic, including the emergence of new variants of the virus.
However, Stritikus remained consistent in his belief that FLC currently has “many of the pieces of success in place” and is in a position to “move the college forward” by making smart investments with its extra money. This would include investing in new academic programs and centers as well as new infrastructure on campus.
The Board of Trustees did not make solid plans for how to allocate their extra money at this meeting. Instead, they plan to establish a set of metrics in future meetings that will help them determine how they can best invest extra money.
Becky Clausen, associate professor of sociology and faculty representative on the Board of Trustees, shared that faculty morale and support for each other is high, despite the emotional toll of the pandemic and struggles with teaching both in-person and remote students.
This semester, FLC is hosting in-person classes for students and faculty who are able to attend. Class sizes are smaller, and everyone joining in person must wear a mask and participate in random testing throughout the semester.
At the end of the meeting, Board of Trustees Chairman Ernest House Jr. announced that the board chairmanship will rotate to Dick Kaufman at the board’s next meeting. This shift might also lead to new committee assignments, depending on the board members’ interests.
Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.