Building strong relationships with department
heads and supervisors is important, Kerwin says,
because it will make them more responsive to
feedback on how to reduce risk. But effective communication is a two-way street.
“You have to be receptive to input from
others,” he says. “Ask other people for their ideas,
because local department heads may have helpful
insights. You build trust by doing this over time.
Eventually, people will call you with their ideas
before you even reach out to them.”
Risk managers also need the support of their
college president and board of directors. “The
philosophy of risk management as everyone’s
responsibility has to start from the top,” Stoeger-
Moore observes. “Without the support of everyone
on campus, you’re not going to be successful.”
With so many competing priorities, it can be
hard to get leaders to focus on the need to be pro-
active—especially if there have not been any large
claims or accidents on campus.
Liska pays attention to developments occur-
ring at other colleges across the country, and he
uses these to help build awareness at his own
institution. “It’s unfortunate, but when these
types of incidents occur, people pay more atten-
tion,” he says. “While you have their attention,
it’s a good time to reiterate what you’re doing to
reduce risk and why that’s important.”
Finding ways to connect risk management to
the college’s core mission also is helpful. “When you
promote safety, you’re preserving capital that can be
used in the classroom,” Ker win notes. “If you make
that clear, then people generally come on board.”
Reducing risk helps protect the college’s reputation
as well. “Reducing reputational risk is a fundamental
part of risk management,” says McLaughlin.
FINDING WAYS TO SAY YES
Stoeger-Moore believes one of the key aspects of a
risk manager’s job is finding ways to say “yes” to
new opportunities—but in a manner that “pro-
tects the financial integrity of the college and the
safety of participants.”
For example, as the use of drones is becom-
ing ubiquitous in many industries, a number of
community colleges are beginning to incorporate
drones into instruction, so students have access to
the latest technologies used in their field of study.
But there are several ramifications to using
drones. Because they fly in the national airspace,
the Federal Aviation Administration controls
Cutting costs through
better risk management
Risk management is an investment that can pay big dividends
if done well. For instance, by banding together and forming
their own insurance company, the 16 colleges in the Wisconsin
Technical College System have saved more than $16 million in
insurance premiums over the last 15 years.
“In the early 2000s, a number of conditions existed that
made it hard to have private insurance,” says Steven Stoeger-Moore, former risk manager at Milwaukee Area Technical College
(MATC). The colleges were facing double-digit rate increases,
growing deductibles, and fewer options for private insurance.
Forming a consortium to increase their buying power helped,
but not enough. After an actuarial study, the colleges decided
to form their own fully licensed municipal insurance company,
Districts Mutual Insurance (DMI)—and Stoeger-Moore left MATC
to become its president.
DMI underwrites the insurance policies for each of the 16
colleges individually, based on each college’s own risk data. It
also offers risk management services for the colleges, including
training and risk assessment templates.
DMI recently worked with an accounting firm and an actuary
to calculate how much money the colleges have saved in insurance premiums since creating their own market. Collectively,
they have saved an estimated $16.5 million, the study revealed.
“That’s a significant figure, especially when we realize these are
public dollars,” Stoeger-Moore says.
In California, Coast Community College District has saved
hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in premiums by encouraging employees to take online safety courses, says the former
risk management director for the college, William Kerwin.
Coast and the other 45 California community college districts
that make up the Statewide Association of Community Colleges
formed an insurance pool to increase their buying power.
Together with Keenan & Associates, the insurance firm that manages the pool, they developed an online platform with more than
100 safety-related courses for college employees and students.
Called SafeColleges, the platform offers training and compliance courses covering topics such as basic first aid, blood-borne
pathogens, Title IX compliance, sexual harassment in the work-place, and conflict resolution. By encouraging employees to take
courses relevant to their roles, Coast has significantly reduced
its insurance claims—and therefore its premiums.
“The program helped us to drive our loss ratios for property
and liability down each year, to where Coast was among the
lowest in loss experience within the state,” Kerwin says. “We
were very proud of that. Coast’s loss experience was about
six-tenths that of the pool average. So if the average member of
our pool paid $1 million for property and liability insurance, the
premium for our district would be $600,000 for the same plan.” I m