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President Schrum Announces New Initiatives to Ensure Financial Sustainability

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University must adapt to the changing higher education environment, he says

Noting a “renewed sense of urgency,” Southwestern University President Jake B. Schrum announced a series of new initiatives Sept. 15 that are designed to help provide a path forward for the university amidst a changing higher education environment.

While Southwestern completed the past fiscal year with a balanced budget and successfully met its fundraising goal for the year, President Schrum noted that the financial model the university has been operating on is no longer sustainable. The university is heavily dependent on tuition revenue, but economic conditions at the state and local level mean that those students who want to attend the university require more financial assistance, which decreases tuition revenue. Decreased tuition revenue makes it more difficult to balance the university’s budget and maintain its unique academic program. In the past four years, the university has already reduced its budget by 20 percent.

President Schrum proposed three new initiatives designed to increase revenues that will support the university’s academic mission:

  • The addition of a January term that will offer students more options for completing their educational requirements.
  • Adding a fifth year in teacher education so that Southwestern students can attain a Masters of Teaching degree consistent with the State of Texas credentialing standards.
  • Working with The Methodist Hospital Research Institute of Houston to develop a curriculum for a new master’s degree in Translational Medicine. Often called “bench to bedside,” translational medicine seeks to quickly move research findings into medical practices that improve patient care.

The proposed new degrees will require approval through the University’s governance councils and accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, as well as the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board. 

Several areas are being restructured to save money and adapt to new models. The Smith Library Center and Information Technology Services will be joined under one Chief Information Officer reporting to the president who will help the university best take advantage of digital technology in service to the liberal arts. Leading liberal arts colleges such as Occidental, Middlebury and Rhodes have already adopted this model.

The university’s Institutional Advancement program is being re-structured and re-named University Relations. This office will focus on researching, cultivating and stewarding relationships with key constituents through consolidated programs in gift planning, communications, and alumni and parent relations.

The university plans to close its golf course Nov. 9 because it is no longer profitable.

While Southwestern has avoided layoffs to date, President Schrum said that over the next two years, strategic re-structuring will reduce staffing by at least 37 positions and will eliminate five visiting faculty positions. He said the university will continue to examine every aspect of its operation to determine appropriateness to its mission going forward. 

Southwestern’s curriculum also will be restructured so that all students will benefit from the experiences gained by students who have participated in the university’s trademark Paideia program, which to date has been an optional program for sophomores, juniors and seniors.

“We must embrace our challenges and convert them into opportunities,” President Schrum said. “These initiatives represent a critical path to sustaining our mission. Every action is being taken to sustain and enhance the Southwestern Experience − to support the social sciences, the humanities, the natural sciences and the fine arts that lie at our core.”

The proposals President Schrum outlined have already been approved by the Board of Trustees Executive Committee. The full Board of Trustees will discuss them further at its fall meeting in October. 

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