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Executive job posting is missed opportunity

Today, Washtenaw Community College posted an opening for an Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer. The executive job posting is a missed opportunity to reclassify this position to reflect peer community colleges. It also highlights the dysfunction of WCC’s administrative structure.

Most community colleges don’t classify their financial officer as an Executive Vice President. In fact, many community colleges don’t even classify this position as a Vice President at all. But as in many things, size matters.

In August, I pointed out that WCC has an enormous number of Vice Presidents compared to similarly sized institutions. Not surprisingly, Washtenaw Community College has more Vice Presidents than any other Michigan community college.

Using the list of comparably sized community colleges throughout the US, I looked at how they classify the person who serves as their Chief Financial Officer.

Institution 2019 Unduplicated headcount Classification
Community College of Philadelphia 23,138 Vice President
Joliet Junior College 23,030 Vice President
Metropolitan Community College-Kansas City 22,969 Vice Chancellor
Tulsa Community College 22,918 CFO and Controller
College of Lake County 22,809 Vice President
Moraine Valley Community College 22,597 Vice President
Madison Area Technical College 21,816 Vice President and CFO
Santa Barbara City College 21,423 Vice President
Los Angeles Trade Technical College 21,363 Vice President
Mt. San Jacinto Community College District 21,317 Vice President
Washtenaw Community College 21,182 Executive Vice President
Cosumnes River College 21,015 Vice President
College of Western Idaho 20,998 Vice President
St Philip’s College 20,890 Vice President
El Centro College 20,508 Chief Financial Officer
Wayne County Community College District 20,391 Vice Chancellor
North Lake College 20,295 Chief Financial Officer
Moorpark College 20,190 Vice President
Delgado Community College 20,166 Vice Chancellor
SUNY Westchester Community College 20,136 Vice President
Chabot College 20,005 Vice President

Twenty-one institutions. Only one Executive Vice President among them.

Executive job posting must reflect industry standards

It is a costly mistake to publish an executive job posting that doesn’t reflect industry standards. An Executive Vice President is one step below the President. In a functional organization, an Executive Vice President is prepared to assume the responsibilities of the President, should that become necessary.

In Washtenaw Community College’s case, the Administration currently has two Executive Vice Presidents, neither of whom are educationally or experientially qualified to act as an interim President if needed. These executives have reached the terminal points of their careers. They cannot advance any further at WCC or any other higher education institution. And they are the second-most expensive executives on staff.

This was a prime opportunity to normalize the classification of this position. Instead, the Administration opted to retain the inflated title, and the inflated salary that goes along with it. WCC will hire another terminal executive who – like the current EVP/CFO – is not qualified to assume the duties of the President, if necessary. The Washtenaw County taxpayers will pay top-dollar for what should be a mid-tier executive. We will not only pay a premium for this person on Day 1, but we will carry the inflated cost forward through the eventual hire’s entire term of service.

And the Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees will be just fine with that.

Jack of all trades, master of none

One reason this position is so expensive is that there is no clear definition of responsibilities. According to the job posting, the CFO must have experience with administration and finance; capital budgets; information technology; budgeting and financial forecasting; contract negotiations; debt financing; regulatory compliance; facilities operations; strategic planning; data analytics and marketing. This executive is an octopus. A very cumbersome, very expensive octopus.

WCC already has vice presidents that are responsible for many of these areas. In essence, we’re paying for Vice Presidents for all of these areas, who presumably manage their areas and functions. Then, we add another layer of management on top because – reasons. This approach cannot possibly save money or improve operations.

If having an Executive Vice President of Finance on top of all these other areas is supposed to control spending, it’s not working right now. Why stick with a failed organizational strategy?

This is the ideal time to streamline the Administration, reduce costs and make WCC more efficient. The Washtenaw Community College Board of Trustees must insist that the Administration start to reflect industry cost-and-size standards. This is the only way to deflate the size and cost of this overweight Administration.

WCCWatch: Martin Thomas | WCCWatch: David DeVarti | WCCWatch: Christina Fleming | WCCWatch: Ruth Hatcher

Photo Credit: Mark Belokopytov , via Flickr