Board to Austin Community College president: What's next?

Austin Community College The Austin Community College Board of Trustees and President and CEO Richard Rhodes (center).[/caption]

Throughout most of Austin Community College CEO and President Richard Rhodes' tenure, the numbers are looking up.

Since he began in 2011, graduation rates are up 77 percent; students enrolled in dual credit and early college high schools have increased by nearly 2,300; the number of associates degrees awarded has grown by 1,545 and total course completions have grown by 4 percent.

One statistic, however, darkens an otherwise positive report the president and CEO presented at the board of trustees' July 10 meeting.

Fall enrollments dropped from 45,100 in 2011 to 41,543 in 2016. Between fall, spring and summer semester, ACC has lost almost 2,500 students since Fiscal Year 2014. The number of 0ut-of-district students enrolled in the last year dropped by 16 percent.

"We'd like to see our enrollments grow a little more," Rhodes said, adding the Austin employment rate has also dropped from 6.6 percent in 2011 to 3.2 percent in 2016.

Now, the ACC trustees want to know what he has planned for the future.

"Where do you see us going?" Trustee Mark Williams asked Rhodes following the president's "State of the College" report on July 10. "I think the brand of ACC is very high in our community right now, and I think people are looking for us to do more," Williams said.

Trustee Nan McRaven called the last few years under Rhodes' leadership a "phenomenal success" and said she wanted to see what the "next chapter" was.

"How do we stretch even further, what areas do we do that in?" she said.

Rhodes said he wanted to focus more on building relationships with businesses and industries, particularly in the fields of health, IT and skilled trades.

Board to Austin Community College President: What's next? Austin Community College CEO and President Richard Rhodes (left) with several trustees at the opening of ACC Highland's bioscience incubator.[/caption]

"We are undertaking that as we speak," he said, pointing to the passage of recent state legislation allowing for community colleges to offer bachelors' degrees in nursing and to ACC Highland's new bioscience incubator.

Rhodes will have a chance to present his ideas in greater detail at the board's August meeting, when trustees give their annual evaluation of the president. Rhodes said he planned to flesh out his "2016-17 Opportunities for Success" outlined in an 80-page July report to the board.