Sierra Nevada College faces financial struggle
INCLINE VILLAGE – Ten days before classes begin at Sierra Nevada College and two days before students arrive, President Paul Ranslow announced his resignation Friday, citing a change in his role as president.
Because of a lack of endowment money, SNC is no longer able to stand alone as a private college and is looking to partner with another institution, SNC Board of Trustees Chairman John Altman told the Bonanza Friday morning.
“There was a realization by the board of trustees that it’s difficult today in America to have a small liberal arts college survive,” Altman said. “We’re leveraging the future by looking for a strategic partnership. We needed to figure out how to keep this beautiful place going for the next 100 years.”
Ranslow’s tenure with the college began in June of 2005.
“With the recent developments at Sierra Nevada College, my role as president has changed from that for which I was hired and for which I was prepared to dedicate all my energy and talent,” Ranslow said in a press release.
Before becoming SNC’s president, Ranslow received a Ph.D. from Harvard University and spent seven years as president of Ripon College in Wisconsin. He spent more than a decade in various positions at Pitzer College in Claremont, Calif.
Board of trustees members said they are “deeply saddened” by Ranslow’s departure, but are looking forward to the future.
“Ultimately, this is going to be the center for environmental science, sustainability, entrepreneurship and the arts … but we can’t do this by ourselves,” Altman said. “Paul’s vision was for this to be a stand-alone college, but to do that today you need between $75 and $100 million worth of endowment.
“We just haven’t got it. We have $4 million worth of endowment.”
Enrollment numbers and an endowment need to be in place to fund operations of the college, and enrollment is down this year, Vice President of Academic Affairs Mary Peterson said Friday.
“Enrollment is lower than we hoped for and anticipated,” she said.
Peterson, a 25-year Incline resident, has held her post with the college for the past five years. She also announced her resignation Friday.
“The college is pursuing a partnership (with another institution), and while it’s promising for the college, there’s always new leadership when anyone new comes in,” Peterson said. “It’s in everybody’s best interest for the current leadership to step down and allow that to happen.”
Peterson was formerly the state superintendent of public instruction for the state of Nevada. She said she intends to stay in the community and head back to working with an organization that provides support to the K-12 system.
SNC has a non-disclosure agreement to potentially partner with three institutions, Altman said. He said he hopes the college will make more announcements on its immediate future within the next 60 days.
The college is currently collaborating with UC Davis to build and create the Tahoe Center of Environmental Sciences.
When complete, the building will house SNC and UC Davis faculty and students. New research equipment will also be utilized by partners such as the University of Nevada’s Desert Research Institute as well as Scripps Institution of Oceanography.
The building is slated to open Aug. 21.
Dr. Larry Large was appointed to interim president and CEO of the college by SNC’s Board of Trustees Friday.
“I’m looking forward to helping the board of trustees and the students, faculty and staff to develop a strategic partnership for SNC, one that will leverage the future for all those constituents,” Large said.
Retiring as president of Oglethorpe University last summer after seven years at the Georgia college, he has more than 30 years experience in higher education and has served in various senior executive positions at Willamette University, University of Oregon, the Oregon university system and Reed College in Portland, Ore. He has a Ph.D. and an M.A. from the University of Oregon and a B.S. from Portland State University. Large has been an executive consultant to Sierra Nevada College since December 2005.
As the college gears up for classes to start, board chairman Altman said it’s “business as usual” at the school.
“We can’t wait until the new students get here, although we’re saddened we don’t have more,” he said.