By Allen Palmeri
BOLIVAR—The Southwest Baptist University (SBU) Board of Trustees on Oct. 12 approved a $45.4 million budget for the 2010-2011 academic year that includes a 4.5 percent tuition increase.
Enrollment on the Bolivar campus is down slightly from last year, 1,616 to 1,588. Part of the difficulty is an increase in the number of students who are indicating they cannot return to SBU because of financial reasons, plus a trend where more students are graduating early.
SBU President C. Pat Taylor added a positive touch to the enrollment discussion by mentioning SBU’s “greatest success”—the graduation of a record 829 students. Another remarkable success in Bolivar has been managing a series of record budgets for five consecutive years to where each one ends in the black.
The endowment in a tough economy has risen above $18 million again, and elevating SBU’s online presence and methods of delivery of education to a waiting world is an ongoing challenge.
“Our strength is fragile and we must be prepared to deal with a myriad of challenges during this current year and in future years,” Taylor said.
Trustee Clyde Elder of St. Joseph, who rotated off the board after a combined 20 years of service, reflected on how far SBU has come and how crucial Taylor’s keen vision as president as been since 1996.
“I went to school here in the 1970s, and we didn’t have the buildings to match the programs,” said Elder, director of missions, St. Joseph Baptist Association. “Now we have buildings to match the programs and a way for faculty to communicate with each other in a better way.”
Trustees toured the future home of the SBU physical therapy program, a building on Springfield Avenue that is expected to double or triple the current level of 40 students, filling a market desire for more “Christian physical therapists” while at the same time helping SBU to secure a dependable revenue source.
“We can buy this building and retro-fit it for about two-thirds of what it costs to build a new building on campus,” Taylor said. “We will admit 80 students next fall and 80 in subsequent years.”
Fundraising for the Mabee Chapel renovation is nearly complete. SBU is less than $167,000 away from meeting its $1.4 million goal. The campaign officially ends Dec. 31, but Taylor would like to finish by Dec. 8 so work can begin at that time.
Preparations continue for the Feb. 28-March 1 accreditation visit by the Higher Learning Commission. Securing faculty and staff pay increases at a rate of 28.1 percent over five years has been an essential part of SBU’s strategy, along with tying budgeting to planning and reviewing the MBA program (which has added two new faculty members).
Philosophically, Taylor said he is committed to anchoring SBU in the set of Biblical worldview truths that will ultimately result in good overcoming evil when it comes to increasing pluralism and the threat of radical Islam.
“Every class, no matter what it is, should integrate your faith into it, and through that present what we call a Christian worldview. It’s really about students—how we equip them to be citizens of the kingdom and be able to go out and impact the world for Christ.”
Besides Elder, other SBU trustees who have rotated off the board are Clarence Barber of West Plains, Wayne Hutchins of Springfield, Rebecca Randles of Kansas City, and Gary Longenecker of Nixa.