Erie Community College trustees likely already know that finding the right president will not be easy.
The next president will take the helm of a sprawling three-campus system suffering from deep financial pressures marked by declining enrollment and rising tuition.
In June, Jack F. Quinn Jr. will retire as president of the college. The decision has presented an opportunity for the college. Quinn, a former congressman, brought name recognition and influence that opens doors and gets calls returned. His dedication to the job is unquestioned. But some decisions, such as big raises and bonuses for some senior executives, the hiring of contractors without bids and paying a PR firm to announce his retirement, have been justifiably criticized.
Moving forward, trustees have taken the proper action by setting out on the broadest possible search, starting with choosing the firm Wheless Partners to conduct that search.
The new president will need the financial skills of an accomplished business leader combined with a firm grasp on the educational challenges facing community colleges in general and Erie County’s in particular.
The new president should focus on ECC’s strengths and well as its weaknesses. Both are evident on the aging North Campus, which loses many students to the newer facilities at Niagara County Community College. There are bright spots. College officials recently unveiled the new $4 million Center for Nanotechnology on the North Campus, where the $30 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics building is under construction.
College officials have high hopes that the new programs will keep students at home. The new president will be tasked with turning that hope into reality.
Erie Community College is important to the future of Western New York, serving as the bridge to more education or to a good job in advanced manufacturing or the sciences at SolarCity, the Medical Campus and elsewhere.
Turning around ECC will be an enormous challenge. It is reassuring that the trustees are casting the widest net possible in seeking a new leader..