HFC president: our college was rated the number 1 culinary school in Michigan

By Stephen Coats and Rasheed AlNozili
The Yemeni American News

When  Dr. Jensen was appointed president in 2013, Henry Ford College was amidst a financial crisis and staff morale was low. However, he noted that the college was able to find a path to success again–making a $25 million turnaround in the last three years.
In an interview with The Yemeni American News , President Stan Jensen discussed many things about HFC


1- What have you already established during your first 3+ years at Henry Ford College?

When I came here we had a terrible financial crisis on our hands so we did implement about a dozen different things as far as improving the cash flow in attempts to save the college and they were effective. Today we’ve had about a $26 million turnaround. Our cash flow went from almost zero, to this month (wOctober 2016) we have about $25 million in cash flow, of course that depends on enrollment. We’ve also established a “rainy day” fund or a reserves fund and that has about $16 million in it now. We still need to continue to work on lots of programs and lots of infrastructure.

When I came here the sidewalks were in pretty bad shape, the roofs leaked and so we’ve corrected all that.  Parking lots are repaired. I think the campus looks really excellent. We put up new signs. By unanimous consent of the board we changed our name to “Henry Ford College”.  We have a new brand, which is “Future Driven”, and we take that very seriously.  We want to have everything we do and our students to be thinking about what does the future contain?


2- Are there drugs being sold at HFC that you are aware of and what are you going to do about it?

We do everything we can to make sure very student here is safe and that they feel safe and certainly every employee as well. We serve about 21,000 students altogether and have about 1,200 employees. So every report we have of any behavior or activity that is unsafe we take it very seriously. We have beefed up our security efforts and done a lot more training around how to respond to emergency situations we will continue that and continue to provide that training to all of our employees and to students.

We take very seriously any reports and if anybody has any information about anything that looks unsafe or that is an illegal activity they just need to report it to our security and they’ll follow up on it. We also have a pretty good group of cameras all over campus as far as making sure that we can monitor parking lots and hallways and buildings.

3- Tell us about your program to take initiative when other institutions like ITT fail?

Several weeks ago, ITT, a national college that had about 40,000 students closed its doors on opening day of this first semester this fall and so we immediately took action to let them know about our college and the services we offer here. We’ve had hundreds and hundreds of phone calls from those students that have been left kind of “high and dry” as far as this fall’s education. And it looks like we will be able to help them with what they call CLEP exams or we’ll look at them as far as exams and demonstration of previous knowledge and previous skills. If we can we will be able to transfer them in. Now their credits are not transferrable in but we can look at their skill levels and be able to transfer that kind of knowledge into our programs.

One of the programs that is very strong here is our registered nurse (RN) program, training RNs for hospitals and clinics here in the area and we have the oldest RN program in the state and the largest and one of the best as far as quality and we are continuing to see that improve. It looks like we will be able to help well over a hundred nurses from ITT transfer and be able to begin their training and then finish it out.


4- What is the best way to fix the current enrollment problems?

Usually community colleges are counter cyclical to the economy, so as the economy gets worse we get more students because people are re-tooling, they are going back to school to get a different job or to improve their job. Conversely when the economy gets better and more jobs are out there then our enrollment tends to fall. When I came on board in 2013 we were experiencing a 23% decrease in enrollment, which is of course terrible. We were able to stop that and had about a 1% gain the next semester and then about a 5% gain, now along with almost every community college in the state we are seeing a little bit of a dip down. Ours is only about 1% or 2% down, many others are 6% and 7% or double digits even.

We are doing some really good things as far as serving our students better. Our welcome center is much more organized and focused on serving the needs of our students. We are also implementing fully what is called “Guided Pathways”. It’s a guide and it involves all sorts of software and the ability to put that into the hands of our advisors and our counselors to help our students have a guided pathway experience. Then hopefully they will stay right on that pathway and then they can get done in the least amount of time, the least expense and the best outcomes.

There are great opportunities to get involved in classes almost any time of the year. We’ve also really improved how we accept students and when I got here the student bad debt was at $11.7 Million every year, which is atrocious now this year it’s down to $1.7 Million, which is about the industry standard. I think for us its really being “Future Driven”. Being service focused for our students helping them early on see a pathway that they can take and follow that pathway to a better job, to a better future.


5- What challenges are you facing next at Henry Ford College?

Well the challenges I think are all around us as ITT and the collapse of that university proves and there was one last year as well.  There’s going to be fewer colleges 10 years from now than there are today so we want to be one of the ones that are thriving. Obviously we want to serve our students well into the future with excellence and with great value.  We are very vibrant we have great quality of faculty and staff as well as programs here. We’re always expanding into new programs.

In the culinary arts program we have a two-year program as well as a four-year program now and you can receive two or three or four different certificates on your way through that makes you a terrific employee in the culinary arts business, the restaurants, the hospitality areas where there’s lots of jobs in southeastern Michigan. A few weeks ago our college was rated the #1 culinary school in Michigan and the #10 culinary school in all of the United States.

That’s what lies ahead for Henry Ford College is more and more regional and national recognition for the quality of programs. Overall we want to be considered in the top 10% of all community colleges in the whole country and in some areas to be the #1 like we are in culinary arts.


6- What is the cost to be #1?

It’s going to take a lot of dedication from our faculty and from our staff in working hard and working smart in really solid systems that serve our students. It’s going to take an overall and very serious authentic focus on student success. Everything we do has to be focused on seeing our students succeed. So our strategic plan focuses on that very thing that is student success. It’s one of the big three planks of our new strategic plan is helping our students in every way be successful. And the second one is the help them be retained in our college, so retaining them from freshman year through their graduation and through certificates they are granted. And then the third thing is to continue to look for ways that we can enroll more students


7- If someone is not from Dearborn or Michigan how do you convince them to send their kids to HFC?

Two ways, 1, we have about 65% of our students do come from outside of Dearborn to come to our college so we are a regional college already have lots of students who come from Ohio and downriver and from Detroit to come to our college so that’s already happening. I think in the future you are also going to see a much more vibrant online offering so these would be programs not just classes that will be online but whole groups of classes that form a program all online and that should allow people to come from anywhere in the country to be a part of HFC. I think people see the value of HFC we are the lowest cost by way of in district tuition in the state at $93 a credit hour and so that’s a great value.  So we are looking at great days ahead for HFC.