Alan Walker’s vision for SNC: financial stability

President Alan Walker revealed his vision for the future of SNC

President Walker FinEvery morning, Sierra Nevada College President Alan Walker rubs the sleep from his eyes, staggers downstairs and joins his rowdy students in the cafeteria for breakfast. Currently living on campus in the residential hall, Walker is not your run-of-the-mill college president, and neither is his vision for the future of SNC. On Feb. 23, Walker outlined his unconventional plan for the college in a discussion with SNC alumni.

Walker will face a lot of challenges. The 2008 recession hit SNC like a hurricane and the college is still recovering from the financial blow.  Not to mention, the sheer number of former SNC presidents who have come and gone, and the questionable decisions they have made in recent years has left many wondering if Walker can clean up the mess.

“To be honest, I do think that people are waiting to see what’s going to happen,” Walker said. “The college has had an unusually high turnover rate for this position.”

Walker, who accepted the position as president of SNC in Sept. 2015, is confident that he can bring about the changes needed on campus. With over 30 years of leadership experience in post-secondary education that includes serving as president of Upper Iowa University for eight years, Walker could be the man to put SNC on the path to financial stability.

Junior Jamie Wanzek said “This is a very transitional time to go to school at SNC.  As a student, I’ve seen the logo, marketing and president change, but it’s definitely propelling the school to a more productive future. I think we need to establish that financial stability so that we can go forward with providing a better curriculum and more resources to students.”

To increase the college’s financial sustainability, one of the main issues that Walker is tackling is student enrollment. SNC needs more students. However, with dorm space at max capacity and the cost of living in Incline Village one that few can afford, growing student enrollment is a daunting task.

According to a study by the Tahoe Prosperity Center, “The Tahoe region’s average-household-income-to-home-value ratio is 10-to-1, meaning average home cost is roughly 10 times higher than average annual wages. San Francisco, by comparison, is 8-to-1.”

For potential SNC students, this kind of economy might dissuade them from enrolling at the school. Although dorm rooms are an affordable option, there simply aren’t any more beds available in the residential hall, and for students who don’t live on campus, high rental rates are an unfortunate reality.

However, one of the ways Walker plans to overcome these obstacles is by building up SNC satellite locations, which currently are located in Reno and Las Vegas.

“One of the strategies we can use in the future is to grow those locations,” Walker said.

Walker also wants to focus on gaining more student commuters from areas like South Lake Tahoe, Truckee, Carson City and Reno.

“I have visited with the presidents of the four community colleges that send the most students to us,” Walker said. “It makes a lot of sense to partner with them.”

Perhaps SNC’s main draw to new students is the Athletics Department. SNC has a world-class ski and snowboard team, and this brings students from all over the country to our campus. Walker believes that by growing this department, more students will enroll at the college. However, with more students, the question that arises is, where do we put them?

In the future, Walker plans to have another dorm building built on campus. Citing the 1995 master plan for SNC, “we got about a quarter of what was proposed,” Walker said. “My concern is when are we going to get those things? Every year, the price of new buildings keeps going up.”

Calling the college the “Stanford of the Sierras,” SNC alumni and lecture attendee Loren Rupp said, “What the school has going for it is the quality of education, and the quality of instructors and faculty, which is beyond valuable. We need to make it easy for students to be students, because once they’re in those seats, they’re getting a great education. So now, we just need to get the rest of the business in order, and that’s a long-term investment.”

It seems as if SNC has a long road to financial sustainability ahead, but with Walker taking the reins, that future may not be far off.

“Nothing happens overnight, but getting to a point where we are financially healthy as an institution is my goal,” Walker said.