Members of the Baytown and Lee College communities got the opportunity to meet Scott Scarborough, one of four candidates for the presidency of Lee College and the final one to speak to faculty, staff, students and community members this week.
Scarborough is originally from Baytown and began his career in higher education working for the University of Texas System, including a stint as chief financial officer of UT Tyler.
He is currently an accounting professor at the University of Akron in Ohio, where he earlier served two years as president.
When he spoke to community members and members of the college community Thursday, he took the opportunity to address negative articles from the time of his presidency in Akron that have circulated in Baytown.
One of the things he was criticized for in Akron was generous spending on his university-owned home at a time the university was having a difficult time financially.
Scarborough said the renovation project, needed because of deferred maintenance of the structure, was started by the college’s board before he was hired and was paid for with contributions that had been given for that particular use.
He acknowledged that his short tenure as president was related to the financial
situation, but insisted he was proud of the steps he took to try to meet the school’s challenges.
Scarborough said in the four years before he became president of the University of Akron, the school had lost 4,000 in enrollment, down from a peak of nearly 30,000 students.
At the same time, it had taken on more than $500 million in debt in expectation of growth that did not materialize. The university had a deficit of $20 million in its budget.
He oversaw significant budget cuts to deal with the deficit and worked with the federal government for the school to take over operation of a for-profit university which was not in compliance with federal guidelines — a takeover that would have kept it in operation and brought the University of Akron needed enrollment and cash flow.
While the college trustees initially approved the plan, he said a turnover of the board of trustees resulted in backing out of the plan and his replacement. The university continues to lose enrollment.
Scarborough said with his background in finance, he has been recruited several times to work with universities in financial difficulty — four were successful, he said, and the University of Akron was not.
In addressing some of the particular issues at Lee College, Scarborough emphasized the role of the college president in building relationships with the community and with potential donors.
“Ideally, what you want out of your college president is someone who has the luxury of spending as much as 75% of his or her time out in the community soliciting support for the college.”
In regard to the controversy when the Board of Regents recently endorsed a change to faculty have one-year contracts instead of three-year contracts, he said that while at the University of Akron, which had one-year faculty contracts, he had instituted a program in which excellent faculty members could earn three-to-five year contracts.
He said in all programs, including dual credit, Lee needs to look across its service area for growth.
“Lee College can’t afford to be viewed as just a Baytown institution,” he said.
“Lee College is experiencing some stress in certain elements of its enrollment so it can’t afford to sit here and not look to grow in other parts of its service area.”