SBU trustees approve budget, celebrate good news
BOLIVAR – The Southwest Baptist University (SBU) trustees at their Oct. 17 meeting fully approved a $35.6 million budget for 2006-2007 that was preliminarily approved in May.
In a meeting that was marked by reports of higher enrollment, a 10-year re-accreditation, and the continued implementation of a faculty pay raise plan, the mood at the Sells Administrative Center was upbeat.
“Today the state of the university is outstanding, and it is our commitment to make it better every day,” said SBU President C. Pat Taylor.
Freshman applications for 2006 established a new record at 1,595—significantly above the previous mark of 1,143 set in 2001. That resulted in a freshman class of 459, which is the largest since the mid 1980s, and an overall increase of 63 students. SBU has approximately 1,600 undergraduate students on the Bolivar campus, 900 enrolled in graduate studies and 1,000 off-campus undergraduate students.
Much of the credit for the positive enrollment news was given to Noel-Levitz, the professional consulting firm out of Des Moines, Iowa, that is helping SBU to revamp its approach to student recruitment.
“We are extremely pleased with their help,” said Stephanie Miller, vice president for enrollment management.
In May of 2005, trustees voted to spend $350,500 on Noel-Levitz over three years. Halfway into the contract, Miller noted four areas of improvement: major market research; quality service analysis; financial aid; and the development of an admissions and marketing consulting team.
“I think the No. 1 thing that they’ve helped us with is repackaging the financial aid,” Taylor said. “We used to have all these smaller scholarships, and the parents sitting out there in their living rooms looked at our academic merit scholarships and said, ‘Golly, not very competitive, less than competitive,’ and they never would apply. They (Noel-Levitz) advised us to collapse all these smaller scholarships into an academic merit scholarship, which now is very competitive.”
The university is also celebrating the news from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools that the accreditation of SBU will be continued through 2016. Associate Provost Rosalyn Snellen was recognized in front of the board and received a standing ovation for helping to lead a university steering committee whose work proved to be vital in the re-accreditation process.
In an effort to lift faculty and staff morale, trustees approved the creation of a staff council that will operate like the existing faculty senate and provide a forum for staff to formally have their voices heard. Taylor said he hopes to meet with the new council once a month.
In approving the budget, trustees also provided a boost to all full-time employees by adding a 1 percent pay raise in October to the 2 percent raise level for June 1 they previously approved in May. The third step provides $100,000 for faculty equity raises and $100,000 for staff equity raises. The fourth and final step is hoped for in March with another 2 percent increase for employees set to be implemented.
Taylor said he would like to see SBU keep up the momentum in salary increases by coming up with an additional $2.1 million in the budget over the next three years for this purpose.
U.S. News & World Report recently ranked SBU third regionally in student debt load, meaning SBU students leave their studies with far less debt owed than students at most other area universities;
Stan Norman is coming to Bolivar from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary (NOBTS) starting Jan. 1 to become vice president of development. Norman created the Baptist Center for Theology and Ministry at the New Orleans seminary and developed extensive experience in fundraising there. He serves as associate professor of theology, occupying the Cooperative Program Chair of Southern Baptist Studies at NOBTS.
Work to renovate the Jim Mellers Center is ongoing and on schedule, with an estimated cost of $1.2 million. The project is scheduled to be completed in the spring or summer of 2007.