ACTC Moves to Distributed Model of Collaboration

As of July 1, 2015, The Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities will move to a distributed model of collaboration relying on the participating schools, rather than a central office, to coordinate and foster academic and business collaborations.

Augsburg College, Hamline University, Macalester College, St. Catherine University and St. Thomas jointly founded ACTC 40 years ago to provide opportunities for a students enrolled at one institution to take classes at any of the others. The association expanded to provide other opportunities for collaboration, including joint procurement of supplies as a cost-saving measure.

In recent years, it has become more challenging to financially sustain the centralized ACTC business model. The association’s board of directors decided recently to eliminate a central office and have individual campuses coordinate on-going and future collaborative programs.

Four essential functions will remain among the schools – cross-registration for classes, academic units sharing resources to enhance programs, tuition remission for children of faculty and staff, and joint procurement efforts.

“We are committed to continue programs that have been the backbone of ACTC for more than four decades,” said St. Thomas President Julie Sullivan, a member of the association’s board. “Our new business model will allow us to do this in a more efficient and cost-effective manner.”

Below is a letter from Sister Andrea Lee, president of St. Catherine and chair of the ACTC board, explaining the decision:

Dear colleagues and friends of ACTC,

More than 40 years ago, the five founding institutions of the Associated Colleges of the Twin Cities joined together to create expanded academic opportunities for students, while allowing them to remain fully enrolled at their home school. ACTC also made other collaborative opportunities available for faculty and staff, as well as for the institutions themselves. Today, this longstanding partnership remains a strong draw for admission and retention of students and continues to benefit faculty and staff. At the same time, the ACTC business model has become increasingly unsustainable from a financial perspective. To make our broad array of courses and programs available to all students while conserving limited resources, we must look forward … and we must change.

Over the last few months, at the request of the ACTC Board of Directors, the ACTC Joint Councils and the Executive Director developed and proposed a new operating model. After careful deliberation, the Board – the presidents of the five participating institutions – approved the recommendation of the Joint Council of Chief Academic and Chief Financial Officers to transition ACTC to a model of distributed collaboration.

With this new model, current ACTC-sponsored programs and any future collaborative programs will be coordinated at individual campuses instead of by a central office. Individual institutions may choose to participate or not participate in any program. These changes will afford each institution greater autonomy and flexibility regarding participation and expense sharing in that:

  • Institutions can opt-in or opt-out of programs based on mission, vision and strategic priorities;
  • Programs will continue to be coordinated by inter-campus committees, with administrative support coming from one of participating campuses, including that institution’s Academic and/or Business office as needed; and
  • Institutions will pay only for the programs in which they participate. Direct expenses will be minimized through the use of in-kind or bartered transactions and overhead costs will be reduced.
  • This new model will open doors for our associate members to participate in existing programs and to work with participating Chief Academic Officers to develop new initiatives.

While many questions, decisions, and actions remain, one thing is certain: the four pillars of our collaborative activities will continue, as envisioned four decades ago and sustained today. Those pillars are:

  • Cross registration: affording students greater access to courses, programs and majors than they have at any single institution;
  • Academic collaborations: sharing resources to enhance high-quality academic offerings;
  • Tuition remission: providing significant cost savings to faculty and staff; and
  • Joint procurement: optimizing financial resources for all participating institutions.

Transition into this new, distributed collaboration model will begin July 1, 2015 with direction and assistance from the ACTC Executive Director, Carole Chabries. Faculty and staff currently engaged in collaborative activities will receive a direct message from the ACTC offices about the status of their programs and next steps.

I want to take this more public opportunity to thank Dr. Chabries and her dedicated staff. Their work, their good energy, and extraordinary professionalism over these past several years, and especially during these last few challenging months, have been admirable. In addition to celebrating their years of exceptional service, I applaud their innovative spirit and support in building strong rapport across the campuses. The presidents have ensured that the ACTC staff will receive appropriate transition assistance as we move to a new model of collaboration. We wish each the brightest of futures.

The leaders who envisioned ACTC forty years ago were women and men of vision and foresight. May this moment of change bring to the participating institutions, and to each person and program that is or has been part of ACTC’s long years of success, as yet-unimagined opportunities for growth and graced evolution.

Most sincerely,
Andrea Lee, IHM
President, St. Catherine University
Chair, ACTC Board of Directors