MNU to close Liberty campus, address unexpected expenses
This is the first definitive decision that has been announced as a result of the New Horizons initiative, a program launched in 2016 to evaluate every MNU program and organization in regards to investment, return and potential growth.
“It’s been a good site for us, but over a period of time it has not produced the kind of growth that you would think in that area,” Spittal said. “It costs us to maintain the facility that we lease, it costs us for staffing, it costs us for our people to go out there and teach classes and so we’ve determined to close that facility.”
Spittal said that there are currently two faculty members exclusive to the Liberty campus and both will transition to the Olathe campus to continue teaching.
On Nov. 7, leading faculty members submitted 30-70 page reports to the board of trustees to be used to assess their respective department or program. Spittal said there is no official timeline for announcing decisions based on these reports.
“We still have things we need to solve for the benefit of students and so it will be a process as we move along,” Spittal said. “We hope to engage everybody, including students, but we have a lot of hard decisions to make.”
According to a graphic presented by Spittal to the faculty and staff, while the budget for this fiscal year showed a profit of $516,891, a series of expenses the university had not planned for have budget projections as of April 24 showing MNU ending out the year with a deficit of $813,474. This would make the the actual cost of the year $1,330,365 more than initially expected and planned for.
“We deal with [being over budget] all the time. We normally borrow about $5 million to get through the summer,” Spittal said. “[The bank has] only loaned us $3 million, and against that $3 million we have borrowed $1.2 [million], and they said, ‘we’ll loan you the rest if you show a profit.’ We are gonna fight for that.”
Spittal went on to say that MNU plans to meet its financial goals by contacting donors and churches, finding a new bank and limiting spending by university departments.
The president said that he wants to create a $5 million contingency fund that could be used to pay for unexpected charges including unforeseen maintenance, federal and state regulations and other university changes or occasional expenses.
Spittal also emphasised the need for the university to increase the number of students who attend MNU.
“We need to increase traditional, first-time person and transfer cohorts this fall to about 350,” Spittal said. “If we hover around 300, retention will be taking us back down to where we are not gonna gain any ground. We’ve got to fix the retention issue. We’re losing far too many students this past year for academic reasons [...] and a lot for social and personal reasons, [who] just cannot adjust to college life.”
In addition to retention, Spittal said the university needs to be bringing in new transfers, which will mean reaching out to populations other than athletes, the most common group to be pursued after their freshman year.
“About 100 athletes come to us each year as transfer students,” Spittal said. “We need to increase the number of non-athletes that are transferring into the other programs that we have. That’s going to be a challenge. One of the ways that other institutions are looking at growth is, ‘Are there students that we are missing who won’t come to us because they can’t participate in something they love?’ What other programs do we need to be looking at?”
With the emphasis on increasing enrollment, Spittal mentioned that a new cabinet level position could be created. “Strategic Marketing and Enrollment Growth” has been pitched as a potential addition to the president's cabinet.
Bruce Flanders, director of Mabee Learning Commons and head of the New Horizons task force, said that the task force discussed student enrollment as MNU’s lifeline, and that this position, if it were implemented, would place someone on the president’s cabinet to advise on how to improve student enrollment.
“The talk is adding a sixth position relating to enrollment strategies as being of such importance to the university that it rises to the level of a cabinet position,” Flanders said.
The president said that this is currently only a suggestion and is not yet decided upon or officially in the works.
Alex Schmitt- More by this author
Alex Schmitt is a student at MidAmerica Nazarene University and a reporter for The Trailblazer.