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Chestnut Hill College's long-serving president gets five more years

Sister Carol Jean Vale, the longest-serving college president in the Philadelphia region, will stay on the job a bit longer.

Sister Carol Jean Vale, the longest-serving college president in the Philadelphia region, will stay on the job a bit longer.

Vale, 71, who has led Chestnut Hill College for nearly 25 years, was appointed this week to her sixth and final five-year term by the Catholic college's board of trustees.

Vale belongs to the college's founding order, the Congregation of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Philadelphia, and does not personally draw a salary.

"This decision was made with sincere gratitude and enduring confidence in Sister Carol's dedicated leadership, and with recognition by the board of directors of the outstanding accomplishments of her presidency in the past 25 years," the college said in a release.

Vale said she plans to serve the full term, which would give her 30 years in office.

"I still have the stamina and I think the vision for the future of the college," she said. "As long as those two things are in place, I think I would continue."

Hard challenges remain for colleges in a highly competitive environment with fewer high school seniors graduating, Vale said. Colleges must make sure they are the right size and offer the right programs, she said.

Chestnut Hill, with a 75-acre campus in Northwest Philadelphia, was a women's college when Vale took over in 1992. It went coed in 2003 and more than doubled its enrollment. In 2006, the college purchased the SugarLoaf estate, almost doubling the size of the campus.

The college, like some other small private schools, has struggled with financial pressures. Under Vale, it added majors and sports, including sprint football, to attract students.

This year, the college cut salaries, reduced work schedules, and canceled raises for the 2016-17 academic year to offset a $2 million shortfall. Chestnut Hill has a full-time undergraduate enrollment of about 930 and a total enrollment of about 2,000.

"The budget's balanced," Vale said. "But for small institutions, everything depends on enrollment. We always watch closely what that's going to be in the spring."

Her major goal for the new term will be to create a more global campus, forming more agreements with universities in other countries to bring students to campus and allow for better cultural and religious exchanges.

The college also has faced calls for more diversity among its staff. It continues to fight a Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission finding of probable cause that the college discriminated against a black student by expelling him after he was accused of stealing funds that he raised to stage a play.

"We filled a number of positions with people of color this past spring and summer," she said. The college also is close to hiring an officer of diversity and inclusion, she said.

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