It seems as if the academic year is hardly over, and here we are already planning for a new one. It seems that way, I suppose, because that is exactly how it is. In fact the planning started many weeks ago.
What are we anticipating and planning for? Several things—let me list some of them:
- Enrollment planning never ends. Each year brings something new. This year the state schools have more funding and room for students, and the state budget reflects an 11 percent cut in the Cal Grant. This will affect the university’s budget, as we make up some of the loss to students in the form of increased financial aid. It will also affect our students, who will have their own financial planning to do. While professors who don’t teach at the regional campuses get something of a break, our admissions staff for all programs will be busy all summer. We pray for and encourage them often.
- Of course enrollment planning means budget planning. We watch closely the progress of recruitment and adapt or budget accordingly. We budget prudently, even conservatively. We would rather plan for the worst and be pleasantly surprised in the end. Our CFO, Robert Lippert, and his team in the business office will review and revise and keep a close watch on the progress.
- We will review the year and try to look back at the big picture. We have seen a lot of changes—in our financial situation (for the better), leadership patterns, accreditation, changes in faculty and staff, which both requires us to find people who can carry on the work and offers a chance to rethink how we are organized and might be in the future. We are now firming up all teaching assignments for the year—this brings opportunity for exploration of new courses, and a chance to review the shifting demands of our students. How will we respond to all of these factors? What new demands and opportunities do they bring?
- We will also take stock of the educational environment locally, statewide and nationally. California’s budget is just one of the elements. Nationally we are faced with ever new regulations; federal departments are playing an increasingly activist role in higher education. Last month several of us heard of new initiatives and regulations that we need to respond to. New this year, the U.S. Department of Education expects reporting every 60 days on the progress of our students. What will they do with this data? What new regulations should we anticipate?
- Since January many in the university gave great attention and energy to the development of a high-level strategic plan that has been given broad affirmation across the university. This is important, because each member of the community sees the university and its opportunities and environment from a unique perspective. When many endorse we know we are on the right track. It will go to the FPU Board of Trustees in June for review, revision and affirmation. I am bold enough to say affirmation, because members have seen it once in draft form, and endorsed the direction. We will now in our current planning set some of the first priorities for achievement. You will be hearing more about this as we go. The plan develops an exciting and inspiring vision.
- We will assess the mood and spirit of the campus community from students, faculty and staff, administration, churches and supporters of all kinds. We will plan how we can encourage a positive mood and spirit in the coming year. We live by our mission and commitment to it. All of us who know and love the university wherever we are believe in what we are doing, and the transformative effect it has for individuals and communities. We have committed ourselves to what we believe Christ has called us to. We see the evidence of the importance of that mission in the lives of students, in their growth in knowledge and faith and in the impact they continue to have in the world. But this is not easy and takes the commitment and energy of all. Part of our work as leaders is to continually point to the successes we see, to the growth we see in our students, and to what we are learning as an institution about how to carry out our educational mission for all those we serve. We celebrate our successes because recognizing and remembering them encourages us as we seek to carry out our mission for the God we serve and those of his people who come to this community of learners.
Of course there is more, but this is more than enough for one or two planning sessions. Those in administrative and academic leadership will be spending some concentrated time on these considerations in the next weeks, as we get ready already for the beginning of a new year in August. Now you know how to pray for us. We covet those prayers and are grateful for the support we continue to receive and enjoy.