Preparing for the Perfect Storm

After more than 50 years, the wooden infrastructure of the Silliman University (SU) Coop Store in the corner of Hibbard and Silliman avenues will be replaced with the modern edifice that is Portal East, the counterpart of Portal West. A groundbreaking ceremony for Portal East was held during the recent Founders Week celebration. Before the year ends, construction of the Portal East will start. The Php60- million, four-storey commercial building will be ready for occupancy by next year.

twsThe construction of Portal East is just one of the many measures the university is taking to prepare for the expected drastic decline in enrolment in 2016. Due to the implementation of the government’s K to 12 curriculum, high school education will no longer take four years, but six years to complete. There will be no high school graduates from 2016-18 which means that there will be no new enrollees in college for three consecutive school years. SU is also preparing for the ASEAN integration in 2015 as well as drastic financial movements which could be caused by an emerging ASEAN economy, the conflicts in the South China Sea, and even developments in the Middle East. Dubbed by SU Pres. Ben Malayang III as the “perfect storm,” these forthcoming developments are expected to occur in the next few years and will last about five years. He also views this “particularly bad or critical state of affairs, arising from a number of negative and unpredictable factors” however as a “rich basket of opportunities.”

Part of the university’s strategic plans for 2008-2016, Portal East is just one of the ways where the university can ensure a continuous flow of income in the coming years. Portal East will cater to call center companies which are one of the most stable businesses nowadays. The university is now expanding its non-tuition revenues which are auxiliary income that come from the cafeteria, dormitories, rental payments by Jollibee, BDO and tenants in Portal West. With the auxiliary income coming from the commercial zone of the university, there will be a regular stream of income by 2016.

But even with the construction of Portal East, the university is also preserving the historical value of the original building. The National Historical Commission has classified the SU Coop building, which used to house the Dumaguete Mission Hospital, the first hospital in Eastern Visayas, as a historical landmark. Thus, the university will improve the present structure while retaining its architectural design.

It is even more commendable that the university is coming up with numerous income-generating projects that will support scholarships and other operating expenses. The tuition paid by the students are only 70% of the cost of education and “is not enough to operate a university,” according to Mark Garcia, director of the Office of Information and Publications. The university is looking for ways to maximize non-tuition revenues without spending a lot of money from its own treasury.

Embracing change does not mean that the past should no longer be given importance. SU is rich in history, as well as rich in goodwill and generosity, as shown by the kind of changes being made in preparation for the future.

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