SCF a Financial Role Model

Higher Education

BY CAROL PROBSTFELD SRQ DAILY SATURDAY PERSPECTIVES EDITION SATURDAY MAY 20, 2017

I congratulated more than 350 graduates at the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota, Spring commencement ceremony in early May. In our graduates’ eyes, I saw pride in their accomplishments. I hope the pride in my eyes reflected back on them.

I’m proud they chose SCF as their path to a college degree and a step forward in life. These students have so many options available to them, but I think they find something in common with our College. Most of our students work full- or part-time in order to finance their education, which is just a step toward the goals they have set for themselves. They are on a budget and if there is anything extra, it gets tucked away for a rainy day or emergency expense.

At SCF, we too save for that rainy day or emergency. We make every effort to be a financial role model for our students. The college’s income is from state budget allocations and tuition. We work hard to find efficiencies in our annual budget and set money aside in our reserve funds for future needs and emergencies. Just like our students, we save to strategically invest in our future. We are always fiscally responsible with the taxpayers’ and our students’ money.

Our savings—known as our financial reserves—are dedicated to our long-term goals for campus and program improvements, construction projects and the inevitable disaster recovery. When we discuss financial literacy with our students, we recommend saving for three to six months of expenses. By contrast, the state mandates that the college maintain 5 percent of our annual budget in reserves. That is just three weeks of operating costs for SCF. It would be irresponsible to leave our institution that financially vulnerable.

Healthy financial reserves allow us to cover the costs of improvements to our facilities without requesting additional money from the state. In the past year, we used money from financial reserves to replace the chiller plant—the facilities that provide air conditioning to buildings—on our Bradenton campus with new, high-efficiency equipment that has created impressive cost savings. We will do the same for our Venice campus next year, again without requesting additional funding from the state. We made the improvements when we needed them, creating long-term benefits for our institution.

I have to address two misconceptions that surfaced in the recent legislative session about financial reserves and foundation spending at Florida’s state and community colleges.

First, as stated above, our financial reserves are the result of strategic saving and fund a long-term plan for the maintenance and growth of our institution. Second, our SCF Foundation engages with our community to raise funds for student scholarships, construction projects and improvements and program upgrades. The college’s $374,000 investment returns almost $7 million in gifts, revenue and investment appreciations. Who wouldn’t take that return on investment? Our students directly benefit from the efforts of our Foundation and the contributions of the generous community in which we live.

The notion that SCF could be penalized in its state budget allocation for responsibly managing state funds and investing in the success of our students and community is shocking and counterintuitive. The college is asked repeatedly to behave more like private industry, to find efficiencies in its business model; we have, and those efficiencies allow us to save and invest in our future for our community.

Viewed through the lens of financial responsibility, strategic saving and savvy investing are worthy of reward, not penalty. This is the example we set for our students and graduates. Our institution is a reflection of the students who attend SCF and our graduates who serve our community. SCF is proud to be a model for those who see so much of themselves in our college.

Dr. Carol Probstfeld is president of State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota.

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