Experimental College confronts $40,000 deficit

The Experimental College (eCollege), an ASUCD unit, lost $40,000 from its independent reserves due to a struggling market for its classes. The Experimental College, founded in 1966, offers classes based around movement, such as yoga, kung fu and dance that are not otherwise offered in the school system.

“We are currently in a situation where our reserves have run low and may not be able to support us through the end of the year,” Experimental College office coordinator Hannah Moore said in an email interview.  “ASUCD does not have the ability at this time to help us financially while we work on new strategies.”

The loss of funds began in 2007, said ASUCD budget controller Eric Evans, when Campus Rec began to push their classes which were similar to the eCollege.

“The Experimental College hasn’t adapted to the market yet and is now playing in a new field,” Evans said.

The eCollege currently has $15,537 in reserves. It is projected to lose about $23,000 by the end of this school year. Evans said that ASUCD is working with the eCollege to increase their profits so they will hopefully break even by the end of the year instead of going into a deficit.

In order to prevent the projected loss from happening, cuts and improvements have been made to the eCollege overall. These include cuts in course printing, staffing positions, pay for instructors and staff and complete cuts of classes at the eCollege that have not been making money.

There has also been a change in the split between funds made from eCollege classes. In winter 2013, the split changed from 70-30 to instructors and funds to ASUCD respectively, to a 50-50 split.

“The cost of managing the previous split was more than the college could afford,” Evans said.

In an effort to gain funds, the eCollege has been working with ASUCD unit Creative Media and the new marketing department ASUCD funded this year.

“This year we have been working closely with the Creative Media Marketing unit to produce materials that are visually consistent and creating new marketing plans,” Moore said.

Creative Media has helped eCollege come up with a new design for advertisements and they have also redesigned their website. This was the first major project given to them because it required participation from all aspects of Creative Media; marketing, design and programming.

Creative Media Director Alex Park spoke about the changes the program has made for the Experimental College.

“We made the Experimental College’s identity able to show more through their website,” Park said. “We also made designs based off of their culture.”

A large benefit of the new website is that registration is now easier than before.

“Our biggest asset that is currently being worked on is our website.  It will make online registration easier and be on whole an experience tailored to user ease,” Moore said. “We are focusing on discovering what it is that our students want to see and then filling that need.”

The long-term marketing plan for the eCollege is to advertise with their new designs, put up signs in Unitrans buses, table at events and reach out to faculty and students about their classes.

“We are taking this as an opportunity to reach out to the campus and community to conduct focus groups on what types of learning and courses are of interest and where there are educational gaps on campus,” Moore said.

There is also a new Try Before You Buy option for eCollege classes, which means members can try out a class for free to get a feel for whether they want to buy a pass.

“We are trying a lot of different ways to help the Experimental College advertise and bring in new more members,” said marketing department co-director Nick Dias.

Dias said the eCollege is also going to incorporate cultural literacy classes into the curriculum. This will be done by having a handful of cultural clubs on campus teach classes to raise awareness on different cultures. The eCollege will also teach free classes in dorms to raise awareness of their programs.

One aspect of the college that has continuously raised funds has been the eCollege garden. Here, anyone who wants to garden can rent out a plot to grow vegetables and plants of their choice.

“Garden spots have almost always been fully sold,” Evans said.

Second-year human development major Jade Lewin and second-year evolution ecology and behavior major Jenna Huxley share a plot in the Experimental College garden.

“I’m thankful to have the opportunity to cultivate a piece of land and make it my own, engaging in the process of transforming a weeded plot into a full-blown garden, as well as a nice place to read or do homework,” Lewin said.

“It’s been a great place for peace of mind because it’s so different in there than the rest of Davis. It’s definitely my safe haven,” Huxley said.

The marketing department and ASUCD will continue to work closely with the eCollege until results from their efforts can be seen in winter 2014.

“As with other projects within ASUCD, this is an incredible opportunity to make huge changes,” Evans said. “There is a very broad horizon here.”

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