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.
Photo Credit: Mark Belokopytov , via Flickr