SBU establishes new budget target of $46.4 million

By Allen Palmeri

Associate Editor

BOLIVAR—The Southwest Baptist University (SBU) Board of Trustees on May 11 approved a preliminary budget for the 2010-2011 academic year for a record $46.4 million. Projections call for flat but still strong enrollment, a 4 percent tuition increase, and the completion of an aggressive five-year commitment to annually raise employee salaries by 5 percent.

Rising costs could very well mean a $50 million budget for SBU in two years, according to SBU President C. Pat Taylor, something he would like to offset by building the university’s endowment. It has managed to bounce back slightly in the current troubled economy from around $15 million last year to $18.2 million.

“That doesn’t solve all your problems, but that certainly does alleviate the thirst that we have for more and more revenue,” Taylor said. “When the endowment increases, that helps.”

Tuition for the upcoming school year is going up from $15,800 to $16,500. With talk on campus that some freshmen cannot afford to return in the fall, SBU has instructed its vice president for enrollment management, Stephanie Miller, to administer a measure of financial relief.

“We put money aside to help students that have demonstrated financial needs to help them stay in school,” Taylor said, noting that the goal is to “stay even” in terms of enrollment.

Taylor has presided over the doubling of SBU’s budget, watching it grow from less than $22 million 14 years ago when he took over to the current preliminary figure of more than $46 million. One of the more pleasant developments over the years is the complete utilization of all campus space. This has created a need to obtain more space so that certain programs can be positioned to expand, thereby generating more revenue.

For example, physical therapy at SBU, based on qualified applicants, has the potential to double or even triple from its current level of 40 students. To launch this process, trustees approved the spending of up to $1.6 million (including a $500,000 expansion of the university’s line of credit) to purchase a 40,000-square foot building on Springfield Avenue. The plan is to move the physical therapy students into the facility in the spring, with 80 admitted in the fall of 2011.

About one-fourth of the building’s space is leased to Dollar General, which leaves approximately 25,000 square feet for classroom space and the rest for storage, Taylor said. Buying the building is also attractive, he said, because it sits on five acres. There is a shortage of physical therapists right now in the job market, which makes this a prudent economic decision in terms of SBU developing a good reputation with employers in this field for at least 5-10 years, if not longer, he said.

The $1.4 million renovation of Mabee Chapel is proceeding as planned with the anticipated completion of the first two phases of the four-pronged campaign. So far Taylor said “very close” to $770,000 has been raised, with a proposal to the Mabee Foundation for $280,000 coming up on May 22.

“I ask that you pray that they will be receptive to our proposal,” Taylor said.

A general alumni campaign is being planned to finish the fundraising portion of the project in the fall with individual chapel seats being sponsored for $750 apiece.

SBU unveiled its new logo May 11 with a ceremony in the Meyer Wellness and Sports Center, Taylor said the logo comes across as “a little more aggressive” than the previous one, with a cross in the “U” that effectively “represents us as a Christian university.” Jim Ward Design of St. Louis did the artwork for the new logo, which will appear on the website, on campus, and on team uniforms in the coming months as the Bearcats get ready for the 2010-2011 sports seasons.

In that same ceremony Mike Pitts was named director of athletics. He is a 1985 SBU graduate with a background in finance who has helped the university’s corporate sponsors more than double recently. After moving away from Bolivar, he returned to SBU in 2006 as sports information director before being promoted twice, to assistant director of athletics for operations in 2008 and interim co-director of athletics in 2009. His involvement with Bearcat athletics goes back to 1983, when he served as the head statistician for the first SBU football team.

The next meeting of the SBU Board of Trustees will be Oct. 11-12.