Enrollment success drives SBU budget
By Allen Palmeri
BOLIVAR—The Southwest Baptist University (SBU) trustees approved a whopping $41.5 million budget for 2008-2009 that was expanded to that level on Oct. 21 by about $1 million due to high enrollment.
The official budget number, which is as high as it has been in recent memory, is $41,483,000.
“To this old country boy, that is a sack full of money, and it is an awesome responsibility to be stewards of those kinds of resources” said SBU President C. Pat Taylor. “Our commitment to you is that we spend every nickel wisely.”
Enrollment for the fall semester is 3,656 students, which is up from 3,539 last year. It is the second-largest number of students for any one semester at SBU. Only in the fall semester of 1998, when the university had 3,708 students, was enrollment higher.
Headcounts across the board in the SBU campus system are up from last year. That includes Bolivar (1,577, plus 17), Springfield (612, plus 9), Salem (220, plus 10), and Mountain View (142, plus 11).
“When all facets of the enrollment are considered, this is the strongest enrollment we have had,” Taylor said.
A cautionary note was interjected when Taylor began to talk about how SBU was faring in the context of recent financial events. The economic downturn has had three negative effects on the university: bad debt with students and families; unrealized losses in the school’s endowment; and a decline in the amount of gifts being received.
The endowment as of May 31 was a little more than $19 million, but Taylor said it is down right now due to the difficulty on Wall Street. The losses are unrealized in anticipation that the stock market will come back. Trustees approved an “Impact the Future” campaign to raise endowment funds, but it was determined that the campaign will move forward silently for the time being due to the economic uncertainty.
Gifts to the university are down 4.2 percent, with about the same number of gifts, only smaller than normal. Taylor said he has also noticed that people are more reluctant to make long-term pledges.
Amid all the economic turmoil is a trend toward more students living on campus. This fall 1,055 SBU students are doing that. That is a record; there are no beds open for men and only 25 open for women.
Another encouraging item in the midst of financial difficulty was the receiving of the latest clean audit given SBU. The good news was not lost on Taylor, who noted that the audit showed “no material weaknesses, no significant deficiencies.” There also were no findings.
“I don’t want us to get to a point where we take these good audits for granted,” Taylor said. “It does not happen accidentally. It’s a lot of hard work. It’s a lot of good work.”
Construction continues on the Jim Sells Grand Entrance and Memorial Garden, a $1 million initiative to beautify landscaping and create a striking campus entryway along Springfield Avenue. About 78 percent of the funds are committed, Taylor said. The project, which includes filling in a ditch, putting in a sidewalk, expanding a parking lot, and putting up a fence, could be completed by the end of December.
“It is very much needed as it will certainly improve the first impression people have of our campus,” Taylor said.
Retiring Provost Gordon Dutile was the subject of two action items taken by trustees. They voted to make him provost emeritus upon his retirement Dec. 31, and they also named the SBU honors program after him and his wife, Judy.
Three trustees have rotated off the board. They are: Gary Gilmore of Mt. Vernon; Wayne Gott of Salem; and Phil Franz of West Plains.