By Kayla Rinker
BOLIVAR – Though Southwest Baptist University (SBU) President C. Pat Taylor admits steady enrollment and a balanced budget are measurable ways SBU continues to thrive, he said neither reflects what is most important to the university.
“The state of our university is healthy because SBU is indeed a distinctively Christian university, committed to impacting society in a positive manner and committed to being accountable to our founding church,” Taylor said during his “State of the University” address to SBU trustees Feb. 9.
He said SBU boasts an impressive list of solid Christian alumni in the fields of education, law, medicine, ministers, missionaries and public servants.
“You can look around this room and see the SBU graduates who have had a positive impact on society,” he said.
Taylor also reminded trustees about the importance SBU puts on its dedication to the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC).
“We must do everything in our power to keep SBU committed to the Missouri Baptist Convention, recognizing that SBU is not the church, but an agency of the church,” Taylor said. “If we are serious about remaining a distinctively Christian university, we will retain our ties with our founding church.”
And as representatives of the MBC, Taylor said he expects anyone employed or otherwise associated with SBU to “live and act like Christians.”
“Our integrity will be determined by the private, as well as the public, life of administrators, faculty and staff,” he said. “We all must practice what the prophet Micah told the people of Judah 2,700 years ago, ‘We must do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with our God.’”
With that said, spring enrollment is holding steady in Bolivar with a total of 1,454 students (down only one from last spring’s 1,455 total.) Also, enrollment on SBU’s three satellite campuses has been strong all year. Mountain View jumped from 127 to 169 this year (a 33 percent increase), and the Salem and Springfield campuses averaged about a 10 percent increase in enrollment.
“This year we have been blessed with a good enrollment,” Taylor said. “Also, we have had record numbers of freshmen and good retention of returning students.”
Taylor said it has been a difficult year for fundraising. However, even though donations are down 11 percent from last year, Taylor seemed optimistic.
“Given the dynamics of the economy, I believe we are doing very well,” he said. “I have had conversations with a number of my colleagues at other universities and some have told me that they are down more than 25 percent.”
After taking a big hit when the stock market toppled in the fall of 2008 and early 2009, SBU’s endowment has since climbed back up to a little more than $17.6 million. (The original fall was from more than $19 million to less than $14 million).
“Though I certainly am not going to make any more projections concerning our endowment, I do believe that some day soon the SBU endowment will reach $20 million,” Taylor said.
Whether it is with funds, enrollment or successful academic and extracurricular programs, Taylor has no doubt that God will continue to bless SBU.
“I know He will because God blesses faithfulness,” he said. “We are unique in that we are a conservative Christian school with a lot of curb appeal for Christian parents. We are called to be here for them and God will continue to bless us for it.”