JACKSON, Tenn. – Dec. 5, 2008 – Despite challenges springing from the current economic climate, Union University President David S. Dockery told trustees Dec. 5 that he remains hopeful about the university’s continued growth and expansion in the foreseeable future.
“God in his abundant goodness has blessed this university with his grace and favor,” Dockery said. “This was true before Feb. 5, but especially has that been true on this side of the storm. As a result, this university is not the same place that it was a dozen years ago.”
In addition to receiving Dockery’s report, Union trustees also approved two new doctoral programs for the university – the Doctor of Nursing Practice and the Doctor of Ministry in Expository Preaching.
The Doctor of Nursing Practice is a 40-hour program that can be completed in five semesters and will provide a nurse practitioner track, a nurse anesthesia track and an executive leadership track. In addition to the classroom component of the program, students will also complete at least 660 clinical hours.
The Doctor of Ministry in Expository Preaching will be offered at the Stephen Olford Center at Union University in Memphis beginning in July. It is designed to enhance the art and practice of expository preaching, and is intended especially for those in an ongoing ministry of preaching and teaching Scripture.
In his report to the board, Dockery said that Union remains strong financially. The 2007-2008 year was the largest giving year in history, with more than 8,000 donors giving more than $19 million.
But even with all the positive indicators, Dockery said financial challenges remain. Tuition payment is coming in slower, and like everyone else, he said Union has lost money on investments. In addition, student loans are increasingly harder to get and the payments of those loans are slower in arriving.
Some experts are suggesting that with the economy in a recession, private Christian colleges will face difficult days ahead. Dockery said that he’s heard predictions that by 2015, many small colleges and universities will no longer exist.
But Dockery told trustees that Union at this time is in a positive situation, noting that Union is now an institution with an emerging national profile. He cited several recognitions that have highlighted Union’s emergence in recent years, such as the annual U.S.News & World Report rankings, The Princeton Review, America’s 100 Best College Buys, Colleges of Distinction and others.
These honors have helped to fuel Union’s enrollment growth, Dockery said. For the 2008 fall semester, Union’s enrollment climbed 14 percent to 3,770 students. All indications are that the growth will continue for next year, and the Union president projected an enrollment increase for the 2009 fall semester.
Dockery reported that applications for 2009 are running significantly ahead of where they were last year. Housing deposits for the fall are already twice as high as they were at this point last year.
University administrators are thrilled with those numbers, the president said, and Union should have sufficient student housing available for next year. But he told trustees that more housing would be needed for the 2010 fall semester.
He reported the university’s retention rate for 2008 was 85 percent, an unprecedented figure in Union’s history. Twelve years ago, the rate of students returning each year was about 70 percent, Dockery said. Last year, it broke 80 percent for the first time.
Over the next year, Dockery said the university would complete the new student commons building currently under construction in the new student housing complex. It would also address issues of space for the School of Pharmacy and the art department, and look at the possibility of building a press box for the soccer field.
Trustees enthusiastically received the report from Dockery, giving him a standing ovation and expressing their appreciation for his leadership over the past year.
In other matters, Union trustees named Roy White and Bob Hundley as emeritus trustees. White and Hundley have served on the Union board for many years, and have contributed generously to Union’s work. White was the lead donor for White Hall, and Hundley helped to establish the Hundley Center for academic tutoring in the Union library.
Emeritus trustees can come to meetings and participate in all trustee activities, but are not eligible to vote.
“It’s a way to honor people who have served well,” Dockery said.