Chapter 7, Part 9 – 1981
In late January 1981, Dr. Vear and his team of representatives appeared before the CCE Commission on Accreditation. Both parties were desirous of a mutually beneficial resolution. The CCE Commission was nervous because the U.S. Department of Education was observing to ensure the proceedings were in keeping with their expectations. The college was nervous for the obvious reason: continuation of the college depended entirely on the decision the CCE was about to make. The college had submitted the best self-study it had ever written, and the site team visit had gone as smoothly as any previous. At the conclusion of the appearance, the COA determined: “NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that the Commission on Accreditation hereby grants Western States Chiropractic College Accredited status for a period of three years…”
The long ordeal was over. WSCC was alive and well. In granting full accreditation, the college was given three years in which to address the commission’s remaining concerns. The commission identified five areas where the college would need to demonstrate improvement: decrease the college’s excessive tuition dependency; provide greater delegation of administrative responsibilities; engage in more long-range planning; provide for greater faculty involvement in research; and engage in more post-graduate activities.
Not only were these requirements doable; they were desirable.
Much of the remainder of 1981 was dedicated to addressing CCE concerns. Upon returning to campus, President Vear and his reenergized administrative team set about creating solutions, opportunities and policies to resolve the CCE’s remaining concerns. College annual progress reports to the CCE would have to demonstrate improvement, something that would also appease Washington’s attorney general.
Decreasing dependency on tuition would be the most difficult of the five concerns to resolve. Tuition dependency at WSCC had always been a problem because the college had never experienced a period of protracted prosperity. A year in which the college budget operated “in the black” was an exception. For decades, the college had limped along begging from its constituents and borrowing from the banks. The only financial well from which the college could dependably draw revenue was through tuition increases. The college had no endowment, no development office and no foundation through which to generate financial support for the college. During times of financial crisis, a fundraising effort would be rolled out to address it. Unfortunately, once the crisis passed, fundraising efforts waned. There was neither a champion whose job it was to fundraise, nor a plan by which to sustain giving to the college. The alumni association was always willing to help, but its efforts frequently focused on small fundraising projects within a short radius of the college. It would take all of the three years the college was given to reverse this trend.
Knowing that eventually the college would have to become less reliant on tuition dollars for its operations, the college announced plans to increase tuition from $1,200 to $1,500 per term starting fall term 1981. The administration thought it would be easier to demonstrate less reliance on tuition dollars by starting with a high tuition rate from which the college could progressively decrease tuition hikes over the next three years.
In response to the CCE’s demand for greater delegation of administrative responsibilities, Dr. Vear reshuffled his entire administrative team and reassigned duties. To ease pressure on the office of the president, Dr. Tolar was given oversight of the day-to-day operations of the college. New director-level positions were created and additional support staff positions were created.
Of the five concerns identified by the CCE, Dr. Vear saw long-term planning as the one most necessary for prosperity. He recognized that success in this area would bring about more than just financial stability; it would bring about campus-wide stability. It would identify the college’s strengths, weaknesses, threats and opportunities. From the onset, the college acknowledged that neither the board nor the administration could conduct successful long-term planning in isolation. Truly effective strategic long-term planning would require a more collegial system of governance and greater participation by college constituencies.
Historically, departments, offices, divisions and units within the college operated within well-prescribed, isolated domains, rarely volunteering a perspective or observation about another constituent, even if it was constructive. A new paradigm of cooperation and collegiality would have to be adopted for success. The campus community would have to come together, trust each other, and engage in productive dialogue for the mutual benefit of all. It would not be easy nor would it come about quickly, but it was necessary.
Addressing the concern of faculty involvement in research would not be as easy as it might have seemed to the CCE. The CCE standards required chiropractic colleges to conduct research, something WSCC was committed to doing. Three years earlier, the college had hired Joanne Nyiendo, PhD, to oversee the college’s research efforts. In citing a lack of faculty involvement in research, CCE had insinuated that research was a faculty responsibility. WSCC faculty certainly appreciated the invitation to actively engage in research, but they had been hired for their teaching acumen, not their background and experience in research. Almost all full-time WSCC faculty members were carrying a full teaching load. This precluded their participation in research unless administration provided release time.
Unlike large colleges and universities that attract millions of dollars in research grants and provide faculty teaching loads commensurate with meaningful research efforts, chiropractic colleges had only just begun to develop research agendas. Faculty at chiropractic colleges was still focused on teaching. In 1981, the only research grants coming to chiropractic colleges were from the chiropractic profession itself; external funding was practically non-existent. Still, WSCC was committed to conducting research, but it disagreed with the CCE regarding how it would be supported and who would participate. The college accepted that the CCE had the right to require chiropractic colleges to conduct research, but was unconvinced that the CCE had the authority to force that responsibility on faculty. The college had chosen a different approach than the one being advanced by the CCE and it was reluctant to change course.
Of the CCE’s concerns, enhancement of the college’s postgraduate and continuing education offerings would be the easiest to achieve. The WSCC department of postgraduate and continuing education immediately increased the number and variety of seminar offerings, particularly outside the state of Oregon. Most of the new seminars were developed by faculty members based on courses they taught at the college, but at a more comprehensive level. It was not difficult to entice faculty. Teaching postgraduate seminars provided additional income and didn’t conflict with campus teaching responsibilities because seminars occurred on weekends. Virtually every seminar offered by the college generated a profit. It took less than a year for the postgraduate department to develop into a dependable revenue stream for the college.
In some respects, 1981 was a difficult year for almost everyone. Achieving full accreditation from CCE had gotten the college off to a wonderful start, but economic conditions in the United States slowed the college’s commitment and ability to progress. The economy was suffering badly from crippling inflation, a setting in which the college was particularly challenged because of its indebtedness. Fortunately, the college experienced an unanticipated budgetary surplus of $55,000, which it invested in the money market at 15.5 percent. That was about the only bright spot on the financial front.