You have reached your limit of free articles this month.

Enjoy unlimited access to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Starting at just 99¢ for 8 weeks.

GREAT REASONS TO SUBSCRIBE TODAY!

  • IN-DEPTH REPORTING
  • INTERACTIVE STORYTELLING
  • NEW TOPICS & COVERAGE
  • ePAPER
X

You have read of premium articles.

Get unlimited access to all of our breaking news, in-depth coverage and interactive features. Starting at just 99c for 8 weeks.

X

Welcome to SpringfieldNewsSun.com

Your source for Clark and Champaign counties’ hometown news. All readers have free access to a limited number of stories every month.

If you are a News-Sun subscriber, please take a moment to login for unlimited access.

Witt’s students, discounts increase

Moody’s downgrade comes despite bright spots in fiscal recovery.


The good news for Wittenberg University is that its freshman class is 584 students strong. That’s 63 more than last fall, 44 more than budget and worth celebrating, said President Laurie Joyner, because “we outperformed 80 percent” of the competition.

The more sobering news is that to reach the number certified on Friday the 13th of September, Wittenberg had to offer deeper discounts of its tuition, cutting the net amount of money collected from each student in order to bring them to campus.

Discounting is a major reason Moody’s Investors Services cited in yet again downgrading the university’s bond rating this summer, despite what it called “relatively healthy donor support and commitment from a new (university) management team to balance the operating budget by 2017.”

In lowering the bond rate to Ba2 with a negative outlook, “they’re saying one year doesn’t make a trend,” Joyner said.

She knows because she met with Moody’s representatives over the summer to brief them on the university’s continuing plans to put itself on a sustainable financial footing.

One measure of Joyner’s assessment of what that will take came in a online Town Hall meeting this month when she called it “more of a seven- to 10-year” project, not something to be accomplished in the five-year blocks in which she usually considers her career.

The fundamental reason, she said, is expressed in the same tuition discounting problem that led Moody’s to announce last year it has a negative outlook for all of higher education.

“It is the big danger for the entire education world right now,” Joyner said. “That’s what everybody is struggling with.”

Joyner said to get its larger class, Wittenberg’s tuition discount increased from last fall’s 54.2 percent to close to 60 percent, taking money from its savings to make that possible.

“You’re hoping you get as much as you can,” she told the Town Hall audience. “Because of the weak national economy, even families with the ability to pay … have less willingness to pay.”

Given that Wittenberg gets roughly 80 percent of its income from tuition, “it’s a scary picture,” she said.

Adding to Wittenberg’s challenge are problems in advancement, the department charged with raising money.

Although Joyner said Wittenberg’s core product, teaching and learning, is “every bit as strong as I expected,” she has found “very surprising” the scope of problems in advancement.

Relying on what she calls the department’s “strong bench strength,” she has delayed hiring a new leader because “I can’t position someone for success” until changes are made.

All this is likely to add greater urgency to the university’s efforts to reorganize its core educational programs and add offerings through it School of Community Education that can bring in more income.

A planned bachelor’s of nursing completion program is moving along, she said. “Last I heard, there was a possibility we would have students as early as January. What I suspect is more realistic is the fall of 2014.”

Other programs, including certificate programs, also will developed with one goal in mind: adding new sources of revenue that will help Wittenberg grow out of a financial pinch Joyner said cannot be addressed with cuts alone.

Even the $5 million of savings identified through a painful process last year will be attacked by costs that will continue to rise just to sustain remaining programs.

Joyner said she would even consider programs not traditionally associated with universities to generate money that will help ease the bottom line.

Joyner briefed Moody’s personnel on the university’s plans this year to:

• Create an innovation task force to brainstorm about new programs and approaches to other issues.

• Establish an integrated planning and budgeting program that can more directly identify and grow programs that might attract more students and bolster income;

• Launch an initiative to help students get as much they can from their combined academic and extra-curricular activities to show families shopping for schools the “value proposition” of a Wittenberg education.

Another priority — increasing alumni participation and donations — will be particularly crucial during this time, said Joyner, because the annual budget will continue to be under pressure.

“I get that people are a little shaken” by the university’s challenges, she said, and while contributions to the annual fund would be most helpful, “what is always a real safe area to go to is scholarships.”

Scholarship helps ease the problem created by tuition discounting by taking the place of money that otherwise would have to come from university savings.

As Joyner said when she announced this summer the prospects of a larger freshman class, its arrival after a difficult year only gave the university a chance to catch its breath.


Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Community News

Student dies in hammer throw accident at college track-and-field event 
Student dies in hammer throw accident at college track-and-field event 

A freshman at Wheaton College died after being accidentally hit during the hammer throw while volunteering at a track-and-field event Saturday. Ethan Roser, 19, was struck about 4:15 p.m. during the hammer throw event, in which competitors throw a weighted, tethered iron ball, at Chicago-area college the school said in a statement. Roser was rushed...
Scott Baio offers condolences after co-star Erin Moran's death
Scott Baio offers condolences after co-star Erin Moran's death

Scott Baio will miss Erin Moran. On Sunday, Baio shared his condolences after hearing about the sudden death of “Joanie Loves Chachi” co-star Erin Moran. “May people remember Erin for her contagious smile, warm heart, and animal loving soul. I always hoped she could find peace in her life. God has you now, Erin,” he wrote on...
5 people dead in New York house fire
5 people dead in New York house fire

At least five people are dead after a fire ripped through a two-story house Sunday afternoon in New York’s Queens borough.  There were three children and two adult victims. They have not yet been identified. A sixth person was home but escaped by jumping out of a window on the second floor. The fire started around 3 p.m. and spread to a...
Watch: 4-year-old girl falls from back of bus on busy highway, firefighter rescues
Watch: 4-year-old girl falls from back of bus on busy highway, firefighter rescues

A dash camera caught the harrowing moments after a 4-year-old girl fell from the back of a bus onto a busy Arkansas highway and was rescued by a local volunteer firefighter. Ryan Ciampoli was traveling behind the bus down Highway 65 in Harrison on Wednesday when his dash-mounted camera, running the entire time, caught a scene he couldn’t quite...
Trump boots Obama surgeon general, replaces with deputy nurse
Trump boots Obama surgeon general, replaces with deputy nurse

President Donald Trump has appointed Rear Adm. Sylvia Trent-Adams as acting U.S. Surgeon General after asking for the resignation of former President Barack Obama’s surgeon general Vivek H. Murthy on Friday. Murthy was asked to step down after “after assisting in a smooth transition into the new Trump administration,” Department of...
More Stories