All-College Gathering Outlines the Future of Ithaca College

By Danica Fisher ’05, February 12, 2021
President Collado focuses on APP process, financial health, enrollment and retention.

At Ithaca College’s spring 2021 all-college gathering, held virtually on Feb. 9, President Shirley M. Collado welcomed students, staff and faculty and thanked all those who helped make this semester on campus possible. 

“Getting to this moment, it goes without saying, has required incredible dedication and hard work by so many staff, faculty and volunteers,” said Collado. 

Many steps went into making this semester happen, including reconfiguring hundreds of spaces on campus to accommodate face-to-face classes with distanced students; moving and marking more than 3,000 chairs to indicate where people could safely sit; creating 15,000 wall signs and floor stickers to remind people of guidelines; and building and installing 400 hand-sanitizer dispensers and seven saliva test kit drop boxes. 

Collado also thanked faculty members who have been preparing for the semester. Starting on Feb. 8, approximately 61% of Ithaca College courses switched to either fully in-person or hybrid mode, with about 32% of courses being offered as synchronous online and around 7% asynchronous online. 

“Providing options for students has been so critical during the semester, including giving our students the option to either be on campus or at home,” said Collado. “I want to thank our faculty for your effort in preparing and offering learning opportunities that support our students’ circumstances and comfort levels.” 

Many staff and faculty members volunteered their time to help students move in, including 175 volunteers who worked a total of 965 volunteer shifts. 

“I was so moved by the energy and enthusiasm of our students returning to campus, but really also the excitement of our staff and our volunteers, it really has taken a village,” said Collado. “I want to also acknowledge the dedication of all members of our community who stepped up on behalf of our students and our college. Because of you, this community remains strong.”  

Academic Program Prioritization

Next, the president talked about the Academic Program Prioritization (APP) and the draft recommendations included in the Shape of the College document. The document laid out the recommended steps for Ithaca College to take to resize its academic programs to best meet student needs and to reach the target of a 12:1 student/faculty ratio. 

“These recommendations represent the first phase of our important academic program prioritization work and that is alignment of the size of the faculty to the size of the student body,” said Collado. “These recommendations also represent a strategic decision to hone in on our strengths, to consolidate or end what is no longer responsive to student needs, and to invest in and grow in areas of promise.” 

“I really want to thank you for being a part of this community even as we wrestle through hard conversations and issues, for walking through this challenging time and owning the kind of change that we're going through together.” 

President Shirley M. Collado

These draft recommendations represent a milestone in the implementation of the college’s strategic plan, Ithaca Forever, which was created by the community in the 2018-19 academic year, with implementation beginning last academic year. The president reminded listeners that the Shape of the College document is still in its draft form while the faculty review it, and that the APPIC will make its final set of recommendations to the president and provost by next week. The president and provost will release their final decisions by the end of the month to faculty, staff, students, families and alumni; and changes in academic programs and departments will take place over the next three years. 

“I want to be clear that the pandemic has intensified the urgency of this work, but it did not create the necessity of changing the business model of higher education and the very real enrollment trends across the country,” said Collado. “These challenges were here well before my team and I arrived at IC, but it is our job today, in this moment, in this historical point at Ithaca College, that we prioritize the greater good and ensure the continuation of this beloved institution and its ability to serve our students as an entire community over the long haul.” 

Financial Health

Next Collado talked about Ithaca College’s financial health and how the college is negotiating the challenges around COVID expenses and other outcomes of this year. Collado said that our estimated budget deficit for this fiscal year is about $24.5 million and that $7 million of the college’s expenses this fiscal year are COVID-related. She also acknowledged the impact to college revenue of our fully remote fall and a diminished number of residential students on campus this spring. 

“I know this is difficult news, but I also want to state why I’m hopeful,” Collado said, directly acknowledging the dialogue happening within portions of the IC community regarding the college’s ability to have a strong financial foundation as it makes cuts to the workforce. Collado clarified why right now and the next two years are so crucial for the college to remain on the path of strength and opportunity.  

“While other institutions may have been caught flat-footed by the challenges of this past year, our community had built a strategic plan that was already shifting our business model and the need to identify and establish a sustainable size for an infrastructure that no longer matched its reality,” Collado said. “Ithaca Forever enabled us to pivot quickly to face our reality and begin making some important changes to put us in a position of strength as we look at and beyond this moment in time.” 

She added, “If we don't have the space right now to do what we must do … if we think that we have time or breathing room to maintain the status quo, our institution will not continue to flourish in the future. We cannot afford to not be nimble for student needs, and we must invest in access and affordability for the future of IC students and our students now.” 

Enrollment and Retention

President Collado also updated the college on its enrollment and retention numbers. For the spring semester, there is a total of 5,264 students enrolled, including undergraduate, graduate, full-time and part-time students. Collado pointed out the difference in enrollment a decade ago, in the spring of 2011, when the college had 6,579 students enrolled.  

Collado also said that the number of students residing on campus this spring was much lower than a normal spring, with more students than expected staying at their permanent residence. The college’s residential enrollment this spring is approximately 2,460 students, compared to about 3,800 students this time last year, which represents more than a $6.5 million loss in housing revenue. 

“We wanted to give our students flexibility during this incredible time, with the virus continuing to rise and really plague our country and world,” said Collado. 

Collado wrapped up the enrollment piece by talking about student retention. 

“We know that one of the biggest opportunities to strengthen our enrollment is keeping a higher percentage of our students through graduation,” said Collado. “That’s good for our students and good for our institution, and so we all need to play a major role in making sure that our students are coming, staying, graduating and loving their IC experience.” 

President Collado ended her portion of the gathering with a message of gratitude and hope. 

“I really want to thank you for being a part of this community even as we wrestle through hard conversations and issues, for walking through this challenging time and owning the kind of change that we're going through together,” said Collado. “I can assure you that the strategic and tough work that we're doing now will result in a greater good for our workforce and for our students, and for the future of the college.” 

Student Governance Council


Connor Shea ’21, president of the Student Governance Council (SGC), and Abigail Murtha ’21, senate chair for the SGC.

Connor Shea ’21, president of the Student Governance Council (SGC), and Abigail Murtha ’21, senate chair for the SGC, also provided updates on SGC’s initiatives. Shea spoke about how they are elected representatives who work with students and community organizations to make change on campus.  

“We do this change through legislation initiatives, and we sit on many campus-wide communities, and our guiding principles this year include power, opportunity, willingness, equity and reclamation,” said Shea. 

Shea and Murtha highlighted legislation initiatives that have impacted students including creating a centralized system where approved Ithaca College students can find off-campus housing; they passed an appropriations prize and merchandise funding resolution that allows the Office of Student Engagement to recognize organizations to purchase merchandise for their members and prizes for events that they host; a resolution that allows student organizations to request programming budgets submitted less than two weeks prior to the event; and the addition of a community session at the beginning of SGC meetings. 

Additionally, the SGC has recommended that the community agreement reporting form be added to professors' syllabi; that college events must be cross referenced with an interfaith calendar so that no students have to weigh their faith against attending an event; and that there are easily accessible resources provided by the college to students with food, housing and financial insecurity. 

All College Gathering