A draft of Macalester’s strategic plan was released last week. If approved, the plan will guide the college through the next decade.
After a year and a half of discussion, the Strategic Planning Committee identified ten “strategic priorities” for Macalester to implement in the next few years. These include broad themes like emphasizing entrepreneurship, diversity, and internationalism. They also propose specific changes including a three-year residency requirement and expanded on-campus housing, a move to a test-optional application process, and the creation of online courses.
Each priority in the plan identifies a broad goal and the specific steps needed to execute it, in line with Macalester’s mission statement. If approved, the proposed changes will be made throughout the next decade. However, President Brian Rosenberg expects that parts of the plan will be implemented in the next five years.
The language of the plan focuses on change, stressing that Macalester should not be afraid to alter policies and procedures. This also means cutting programs and procedures that don’t work. Some academic concentrations and programs could be cut if there is not enough student interest.
“Strategy is sacrifice,” Rosenberg said. “To strengthen programs we have… we need to make tough choices for programs that have a lot less demand.”
The strategic plan will also create new programs. There are plans to create programs which will emphasize entrepreneurship, internationalism, and career development. Rosenberg hopes that every department will focus on these themes. He hopes that departments can incorporate alumni into this process.
“The world has changed and the job markets are difficult and we can’t expect students just to figure it out for themselves,” Rosenberg said. “We’ve got to provide them with more help… the best resource we have that we’re not taking advantage of is our alumni. We have a large and diverse alumni population that is anxious to provide help to Macalester students. We need to figure out a way to connect more effectively with that group.”
The plan also seeks to diversify the current student population. Since standardized testing processes have long been accused of economic bias, the plan suggests having test-optional admissions. Students would not be required to submit their test scores, hopefully increasing the economic diversity of applicants. The plan also considers connecting with the Questbridge or Posse Programs that help recruit minority students.
“We need to at least take a careful look at those programs and see which ones suit us and might help recruit talented students from underrepresented backgrounds that are going to succeed,” Rosenberg said. “On the test side, I’ve become increasingly disenchanted with standardized testing … I’m a big supporter of [going test optional]. There is evidence that when schools go test-optional, it helps diversify their applicants.”
The strategic plan also seeks to increase the diversity of Macalester’s faculty and staff, saying that it would help fulfill the school’s mission of a multicultural focus in its education. It calls for identifying three to five tenure-track faculty lines which would focus on increasing faculty diversity, and converting some fellowship positions to tenure-track lines which would also focus on strengthening the diversity of the faculty. Last spring, MCSG unanimously passed a bill calling on the Strategic Planning Committee to prioritize hiring of diverse faculty, yet they called for seven to ten committed faculty-of-color positions over the next few years.
Other strategic priorities include changing faculty governance structures, becoming more financially sustainable, and incorporating more technology into the classroom.
The plan identifies measures to keep Macalester at a level of financial sustainability for the coming years. Having identified that college expenses are increasing at a rate faster than college revenues, the Strategic Planning Committee targeted an average 3.5 percent annual average tuition increase over the next five years, and identified a goal of raising $80 million to support the college’s endowment.
One specific cut identified in the plan comes out of the college’s study away budget, which takes up 5 percent of Macalester’s operating budget. The plan proposes cutting that allocation to 4.75 percent by reducing the average cost per study away program rather than cutting options available to students.
The strategic priorities are as diverse as the committee that created them. The 20-member committee included administrators, faculty, staff, and students. In this group, it was often difficult to come to a consensus.
“Imagine taking any 20 people from the Macalester community and putting them in a room and asking them what are the priorities of the college. You’re going to get disagreements,” Rosenberg said. “These discussions were among the most intense I’ve ever been a part of at Macalester.”
Though the committee did eventually agree on ten strategic priorities, Rosenberg does not expect the entire Macalester community to approve of the plan.
“At the end of the day you have to trust… that the people you brought together to work on this thing have come up with a document that’s going to serve the college well,” Rosenberg said. “Any document that has any kind of courage in it… and makes any tough choices is going to provoke some disagreement. That’s just natural.”
For those who disapprove of the plan, now is the time to propose changes. This semester is dedicated to gauging the community’s response to the plan. Those with concerns can visit the Strategic Plan webpage to send direct feedback on the plan, or meet with Rosenberg.
Rosenberg hopes that the Board of Trustees will approve the plan by their January meeting. Under that timeline, the plan would begin to be implemented next spring. By the end of the semester, Macalester will start to look ahead to the next decade.
Read the plan and provide feedback: http://www.macalester.edu/president/strategicplan2014/