The University of Toledo is millions in the red, class sizes have increased, enrollment is down, and the school’s strategy to fix some of those problems includes hiring a $1,200-a-day consultant.
Cam Cruickshank, founder of a Martin, Ohio-based company called Enrollment Builders, has been paid $60,000 since October, when he was hired as interim vice provost for enrollment management.
Hiring consultants and experts for $1,200-a-day has irked leaders of the university’s faculty union, who say it’s irresponsible to spend such money when UT has slashed millions from its budget, squeezed more tuition out of students, and increased class sizes.
Mr. Cruickshank’s daily rate is the same as Rick Stansley, Jr., a former UT trustee chairman who was hired as a $1,200-a-day consultant to run a $10 million UT-funded economic development arm called the University of Toledo Innovation Enterprises.
Linda Marie Rouillard, vice president of UT’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors, blasted the university for the high-priced hires.
“I think it’s pretty sad we are not willing to hire tenure-track faculty, but we are willing to hire consultants for $1,200 a day,” Ms. Rouillard said. “One wonders if there is a conflict of interest here with Cam Cruickshank since he has his own company and is he still looking for business for his own company?”
She was also critical of UTIE, which has invested about $7.5 million in start-up firms. That money comes out of a $10 million pot authorized in 2008 by the UT trustees. So far, there have been write-downs of $1 million for solar-panel maker Xunlight and $1.31 million for a company named ST&I MWOE Holding.
“It’s very sad the university is willing to spend money on things like UTIE but not on students and their futures,” Ms. Rouillard said. “Our administration seems to be more concerned about starts-ups and spinoffs and so on.”
A key role
Scott Scarborough, UT’s provost and executive vice president for academic affairs, said Mr. Cruickshank plays a key leadership role in developing the enrollment management component of the university's strategic plan.
He is in charge of enrollment management, financial aid, and distance learning. He was previously vice president for enrollment management at Tiffin University before founding Ivy Bridge College, an online school formed in partnership with Tiffin that in four years enrolled more than 3,500 students and has 200 employees. In October, 2011, Mr. Cruickshank founded Enrollment Builders, for which he serves as principal consultant.
“In this case, we actually contracted with Cam’s company, Enrollment Builders, for interim management services,” Mr. Scarborough said.
Part of his duty is to “reverse the enrollment decline,” he said.
Mr. Scarborough said the search committee will recommend Mr. Cruickshank for the position full time.
Enrollment declined steeply at the University of Toledo, where 19,795 enrolled this spring, compared to 20,631 last year, a 4 percent reduction. UT enrollment dropped by about 5 percent for the fall semester from 2011 to 2012.
The university has faced multimillion-dollar shortfalls for each of the past three fiscal years. Leading up to fiscal 2011, its projected deficit was $2.7 million; leading into fiscal 2012, it was $32.9 million, and heading into fiscal 2013, it was $25.1 million. UT now faces an estimated $30 million to $36 million shortfall for fiscal 2014, which runs from July 1, 2013, through June 30, 2014.
Mr. Cruickshank said he has helped multiple universities with enrollment. UT’s problem, he said, included too great of a reliance on graduating high school seniors.
“UT needs to have a firm strategy to maintain or grow enrollment,” Mr. Cruickshank said. “Up until my arrival, we haven’t had anyone, at least not recently, who has been able to provide strategies and recommendations at the executive level who can really move the needle and grow enrollment.”
The school needs to diversify its enrollment efforts, he said.
“In the past, we may have been a little too focused on the direct-from-high-school population,” Mr. Cruickshank said. “The advice I have given to the institution is that we diversify enrollment and look to attract more adult learners, more learners studying 100 percent online, more graduate students, and more international learners.”
The pay issue
Mr. Cruickshank said he is unaware of any UT policies regarding consultant pay or why his compensation mirrors Mr. Stansley’s rate.
“My daily rate for when I typically visit colleges is much more than $1,200 a day [and] UT negotiated down my daily rate I am usually able to get from other colleges,” he said. “Part of that was because they wanted me here several days a month.”
He acknowledged that recruitment and retention are tougher with an austere university budget.
“We are developing strategies where we can be more efficient with limited resources,” Mr. Cruickshank said. “We are making sure we are identifying and recruiting high academic ability, so the honors college strategy is a good example of how we are making strategic investments.”
Mr. Cruickshank said he has three full-time employees who would continue to work for the company if he is hired full time by UT.
William Koester, UT trustee chairman — who also sits on the UTIE board that oversees Mr. Stansley — said he did not have an issue with the compensation for either Mr. Cruickshank or Mr. Stansley, who was paid $307,200 last year.
“I would say as a registered professional engineer, to charge $150 an hour is not out of line,” Mr. Koester said. “Some may think it is too expensive, and some may say it’s too cheap. It is not out of the range, but should you be working every day or 2,000 hours a year? That may be another question.”
UT Trustee John S. Szuch said Mr. Cruickshank has a proven track record, “particularly in the area of distance learning.”
He dismissed the union leaders’ concerns. “It seems like a lot of the faculty union is attacking everything they can because they don’t want to see cuts,” Mr. Szuch said. “They don’t want to have cutbacks in their areas, so they are attacking everything they can.”
Trustees Joseph H. Zerbey IV, president and general manager of The Blade; Gary P. Thieman, and Linda Mansour declined to comment. Trustees Susan Palmer; Dr. S. Amjad Hussain, who writes an editorial column for The Blade; Sharon Speyer; Susan Gilmore, and Juan Jose Perez could not be reached for comment.
Contact Ignazio Messina at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6171.