The Board of Trustees of The Baptist College of Florida held their pre-convention meeting Oct. 7 on the Graceville campus. The meeting is always held during this time of the year, but it has never been held under the circumstances that were faced this year.
As Hurricane Matthew roared across the Caribbean toward Florida, plans for the trustee meeting entered a state of flux—should it be canceled, postponed, etc.? The decision was made to have the meeting in a multi-audiovisual-site format. All of the trustees who could get to Graceville would meet there, and all of the others who had communications in place would join by way of interactive audiovisual means.
BCF President Thomas A. Kinchen noted that this was an ironic situation since one of the topics that had been set for discussion and vote was the use of interactive audiovisual methods for trustee meeting attendance when regular attendance was not possible. According to Kinchen, “The experiment that had been necessitated by the hurricane worked very well.” Approximately half of the trustees made the trip to Graceville, while many others joined by video conferencing. Unfortunately, some had no electrical power and were unable to join the meeting. As one might expect, the recommendation to provide a means for attendance by way of interactive audiovisual conferencing was approved unanimously.
In other business, trustees heard reports on curriculum, finances, development efforts and progress in the area of buildings and maintenance. In 1993, trustees approved a plan through which dependents of faculty, staff and officers of the college could attend classes at a 50 percent reduction in tuition. In 2009, that plan was amended to allow the same group to attend classes with no tuition cost, but they were responsible for all applicable fees. Within the program, the tuition was forgiven as a “first dollar” deduction, so there was no reason for the student to seek other forms of financial aid with the college absorbing the entire tuition cost. Trustees approved a plan whereby the Dependent Tuition Assistance Plan would be changed to a “last dollar” program. This means that an individual who is qualified for the program will be required to apply for all potential financial aid in the form of scholarships and grants before applying for the dependent funds. Once all other grants and scholarships have been deducted from their account, the college will waive the remaining balance. In this manner, the student will not have “out-of-pocket” expenses and the college will not have to absorb the full cost of the tuition.
Board members heard reports concerning the enhanced safety and security program at the college. While the college has been rated as the safest campus in the state, there is still the need for vigilance in order to provide maximum safety and security for the campus family and guests. The college has contracted with a private security firm that has provided state-approved training for six of the faculty and staff members who make up the ASERT (Armed Security Emergency Response Team) Team for the campus. These team members are known by the campus family and provide a safe setting with a very low visibility level.
Trustees approved the acquisition of a house and three building lots located directly across the street from the Graceville campus. The acquisition came through the purchase of the home and the lot on which it is located. The two adjacent lots were donated to the college by a retired faculty member and his wife. The new property will be utilized for student housing. In other property discussions, the board was updated on the Blue Springs Campus development. Currently, all environmental studies have been completed and the final title search activities are being concluded. The final transition of the property from the Florida Baptist Convention to The Baptist College of Florida should be completed within the next couple of weeks.
The board also approved recommendations affecting the financial life of the college. In one vote, trustees approved the transfer of unrestricted reserve funds into the construction account for the Kinchen Center, which will serve as the home of the school’s Teacher Education program. Final engineering and architectural work is being completed on the project, and construction is scheduled to begin within the next 45 days. Since the faculty and staff of the college have not received a general salary increase in several years, the president recommended that the Christmas bonus that they usually receive be increased for 2016. The bonus is normally set at 1 percent of the base salary for each employee. Trustees approved a 2 percent amount for 2016.
According to Kinchen, “This is a bittersweet time as we say goodbye to some of our board members and prepare to welcome others.” Trustees completing their term of service on the board included Jerry Oswalt from Graceville, Howard Gates from Fort Walton Beach, Liz Traylor from Pensacola, Dozier Johnson from Tallahassee and Kenric Conway from Panama City.
“Our Lord continues to bless in monumental ways,” said Kinchen. “He is calling out some of His finest folks. They are responding. Through His blessings and the unparalleled support of Florida Baptists and other supporters of the college, we have our best days in front of us.”
For more information about the degrees offered through The Baptist College of Florida, call 800-328-2660 ext. 460, or visit the website www.baptistcollege.edu.
Sandra Richards is director of enrollment management and marketing at The Baptist College of Florida.