BOLIVAR—The Southwest Baptist University (SBU) Board of Trustees on May 10 approved a preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 academic year of $48.4 million, which is likely a harder number than what was approved last May.
In October 2010, SBU had to lower its $46.4 million estimate to $45.4 million due to several factors like lower enrollment, less Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) revenue, higher utility and snow removal costs during a hot summer and cold winter, and the cumulative effect of a five-year push to annually raise employee salaries by 5 percent. All of those variables are leading SBU to finish about $600,000 in the red, after five consecutive budget years in the black.
If 2011-2012 goes well, employees will be eligible for 2 percent raises March 1.
“I feel very good about this year’s budget,” said SBU President C. Pat Taylor. “Last year at this time I did not feel good about the budget.”
Taylor said he is “very optimistic” about freshman enrollment for the fall nudging into the 460s, which would help SBU regain its benchmark 1,600 level on campus after slipping to 1,588. One positive indicator is 395 freshman deposits paid, which is up 50 from last year.
After hitting rock bottom at $14 million, SBU’s endowment has been built back up to $20.2 million. Giving is up as well. Through April, gifts were nearing $6 million, and with the proceeds of one estate pending, the record $6.7 million total for 2005-2006 may be surpassed, Taylor said.
Tuition keeps on rising. More students are saying in the difficult economy that they must leave and get a job to help their families pay bills. After a 4.5 percent tuition hike last year that bumped costs from $15,800 to $16,500, it is now going up 5.5 percent to $17,400. Cushioning that is a budgeted $995,000 increase in scholarships and an elevation of SBU’s discount rate from 48.6 percent to 49.4.
Taylor celebrated missions at the end of his report to trustees, deferring to a pair of SBU graduates, Jason and Dorothea Lee, who are International Mission Board missionaries in Senegal. The Lees are part of a current MBC partnership that aims to get more churches on the field serving as missionaries to unreached people groups.
“If SBU wants the invitation, I’m giving it now,” Jason Lee said. “Come work alongside of us.”
Trustees toured the physical therapy building, which is being renovated and will be done by July. Filling a class of 80 graduate students in the fall and for years to come will be a significant fiscal boost.
In other business, trustees:
• Heard an update on the Steinway piano fundraising project, which involves about $44,000 collected toward a $132,000 goal;
• Approved three new courses of study including majors in social work and exercise science, and a Master of Science in Nursing degree;
• Listened to a report on the Higher Learning Commission focus visit Feb. 28 and March 1. n
ALLEN PALMERI/associate editor