June 3, 2020 - Letter to the PNCA Community

June 03, 2020

A Message from Interim President Christopher Maples and Board of Governors Chair Scott D. Musch

Dear members of the PNCA Community,

On behalf of the Board of Governors and the senior leadership of the college, we want to thank you for your dedication and hard work to assure a successful completion to the academic year for our students. Since PNCA transitioned to remote instruction and operations in mid-March, the PNCA community has risen to this unprecedented challenge together. Your collective abilities to engage the remainder of the spring academic semester via remote platforms was inspiring. Featuring the dynamic works of our MFA and BFA Thesis students on a new web-based gallery and the celebration of this past weekend’s virtual 2020 Commencement demonstrates that as a community we are united in our support of the student experience and their collective success.

We continue to focus on our fall recruitment. Our undergraduate admissions counselors as well as department heads and chairs within the graduate program are having direct conversations with prospective students and graduate candidates. We are reviewing applications, conducting interviews, securing acceptance deposits, hosting virtual open houses, and most recently we launched an enhanced virtual tour of the campus.

PNCA’s leadership is actively monitoring the COVID-19 situation through participation in virtual roundtables and conversations with our AICAD colleagues across the country, as well as the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, and the Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities.

Like many of our AICAD colleagues and our neighboring colleges and universities, PNCA is developing contingency plans for the fall semester. It remains our intention to return to in-person instruction in the fall. Many options are being considered, such as delaying the start of the fall semester, blending remote and in-person classes, and adjusting class schedules to allow for greater physical distancing once students are back on campus.

The most recent update from the Oregon Health Authority has indicated that Multnomah County (the county in which PNCA resides) has submitted its guidelines to the state for consideration and approval to begin the Phase One reopening on June 12, 2020. Should this occur, PNCA will work to open the campus to the summer Low-Residency in Visual Studies, implementing COVID-19 protocols to remain in compliance with the health and safety guidelines required by the State of Oregon and the Oregon Health Authority.

Our priority is to assure the safety of our students, faculty and staff, while preserving the quality of the student experience. Our plans to return to campus will comply with Governor Kate Brown’s emerging strategy to reopen Oregon and will be informed by guidance from the Oregon Health Authority and Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. We hope to announce the plans for the college’s fall semester as soon as we possibly can based on when we receive clear directive from the state.

How the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting PNCA’s finances

As communicated last month in an email to the PNCA community, the college has begun the development of its Fiscal Year 2020/2021 budget to present to the Board of Governors for approval during their annual meeting in June. The intention was to move the college to a balanced budget. COVID-19 is making this more difficult. The pandemic is having a profound effect on higher education institutions, as with most businesses. Current expectations are leading us to forecast a potential 15%–20% decline in Fall 2020 enrollment and retention. This rate of decline is predicted nationally for colleges and universities, with most other institutions reflecting this forecast in their financial planning for the next academic year.

Actions already taken to address the challenge

During this critical time, especially given the unpredictability of the near future, PNCA took decisive action and implemented a hiring freeze, as well as a freeze on all non-essential spending.

PNCA applied for and received funding from the Payroll Protection Program established by the CARES Act. This was an extraordinary feat in a very time-sensitive and complicated process. This relief funding has allowed PNCA to continue to pay our staff their regular pay through the pay period ending June 20, 2020 (pay date of June 26, 2020), irrespective of their ability to work their regular hours due to COVID-19.

Additional changes we need to make

Going forward, enrollment remains our main source of revenue and will be affected under these pandemic conditions, so we have to implement additional spending restrictions in order to enhance our options for the future. In anticipation of this potentially significant decline in revenue, the college will need to make financial adjustments to the budget effective immediately in order to reduce the current operating budget by approximately 15%. These are critical decisions for the college as we continue to brace against the unknown in order for PNCA to remain as strong and healthy as possible.

  1. Effective July 1, 2020, the college’s senior leadership will take a temporary reduction in pay.
  2. PNCA will suspend its 403b contribution for all full-time faculty and staff from July 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021.
  3. It is necessary to implement a number of furloughs through August 15, 2020. Furloughed employees will continue to receive PNCA health benefits and are eligible for unemployment benefits. In addition, some PNCA staff will have their hours reduced. These furloughs will impact 15% of our employees. While we hope to bring each of these staff members back at the beginning of the semester, the dates and the length of the furlough may change as plans for the next academic year become clear.
  4. We will continue to monitor the fall undergraduate and graduate enrollment numbers and then determine, pending the revenue forecast, the need for further, temporary, tiered salary reductions for all full-time faculty and staff.
  5. PNCA will need to implement a number of carefully considered layoffs for staff and faculty whose positions will be eliminated during this pandemic and recovery period. This is a separate group of staff and faculty from those in the furlough program. These layoffs represent 9% of full-time PNCA employees.
  6. There have been nine positions over the past several months that have been vacated and will not be filled during Fiscal Year 2020/2021. These positions are in the Advancement, Communications, Academic Support, Student Support, Registration, Financial Aid, and Business Office departments.

The Path Forward

This past April, in response to COVID-19, PNCA’s Board of Governors voted to postpone the conclusion of the Presidential Search until the country and the economy are back to a degree of normalcy. The college remains in discussions with the finalist. As PNCA continues to navigate these uncertain times, the decision was made to temporarily extend the current contract for Interim President Chris Maples.

We anticipate that the changes being announced today will place PNCA in a stronger position to adjust to the unpredictable realities of the COVID-19 pandemic. As a community, we are in this together. We recognize that these financial adjustments affect everyone in the PNCA family to some degree, and they are difficult decisions to make. Please know that the college is implementing these tiered approaches to budget reductions to have the least amount of impact as possible on students, faculty and staff. The relief funding from the Payroll Protection Program allowed us to maintain positions through most of this current fiscal year, ending June 30th. Our tiered approach heading into the next fiscal year is intended to be thoughtful and considered, monitoring the pandemic’s impact on enrollment, and adjusting where necessary to support our students and deliver upon the mission of PNCA.

We remain grateful to all of you for your collaborative spirit, strength, determination, and resilience, all of which have become hallmarks of the PNCA community.

Sincerely,

Scott D. Musch PNCA Board of Governors Chair

Christopher G. Maples, PhD PNCA Interim President