Faculty and staff of Abilene Christian University gathered Monday as Dr. Royce Money, ACU president, delivered his annual "State of the University" address.
Money said ACU is in a position of strength in terms of enrollment, donors, endowment and competitive positioning, but challenges may lie ahead in endowment, tuition and contributions because of the uncertain economy.
"From a financial standpoint, our country is dealing with pressures that we haven't seen the likes of in decades," Money said. "Relatively speaking, we find ourselves in a position of great strength. Difficult at times? Yes. Frustrating at times? Yes. Threatening our ability to continue fulfilling our mission as we have for 96 years? Not a chance. I choose to believe that this reveals the hand of God at work. I choose to believe that what we are doing here at ACU is truly different, truly special and a work that reflects the fingerprints of our Master."
Enrollment has remained consistent and "strong in quality and quantity," Money said. In addition, during the past 10 years, the average SAT score of the entering class has improved from 920 to 1104.
Although donors and total gifts have declined slightly since the peak during the last campaign, ACU maintains a strong base of more than 8,000 donors.
"While we don't expect the number of donors who support ACU to be impacted significantly by the economy, the total dollars that we are able to secure in the short-term is likely to be a pressure point." Money said. "Personal wealth across the country has been significantly impacted by the recent economy, and we expect some reciprocal impact."
ACU's endowment held strong during the past fiscal year, even as other universities saw steep declines.
"Just to give you some sense, our endowment of about $140 million dollars ranks as number 141 out of more than 4,000 public and private institutions of higher education nation wide. We have a lot to be thankful for," Money said.
Among similar private universities across the country, ACU's price continues to stay in the lowest quartile and its quality in the highest quartile, according to the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings.
"This means that ACU is a great value," Money said. "To me, however, it means much more. It means we're doing a good job ensuring that an ACU education remains affordable to as many students and families as is possible, while also ensuring that an ACU education is of high quality."
Money also encouraged faculty and staff to not be dismayed by challenges ahead.
"This is no time for the faint-hearted. This is no time for us to be fixated on our own situation more than on our mission. This is a time for courageous people to carry on the kingdom business to which we are called. With God's help, let us press on together."