By Daniel C. Houston
Baylor administrators gave students a chance to offer feedback and ask questions about the university’s draft strategic plan Tuesday at a town hall forum hosted by student government.
At the forum, which took place in the den of the Bill Daniel Student Center and was attended by approximately 40 students, executive vice president and provost Dr. Elizabeth Davis highlighted efforts the university is making to address rising tuition costs by raising scholarship revenue.
“There was a lot of input into the strategic plan about the cost of a Baylor education, and we know that costs of education are skyrocketing across the country,” Davis said. “So there’s two parts to this. We’ve got to figure out a way to generate other sources [of revenue], not just tuition; we’ve got to have scholarships and other revenue sources to make this education affordable … but then we also have to be very responsible stewards of the resources that we have.”
Although the university’s efforts of fundraising for scholarships primarily target alumni, student body president and Houston senior Zach Rogers said he is looking for ways to encourage current students to give toward the university’s scholarship initiatives.
Encouraging student donations, Rogers said, would promote a “culture of giving” that could carry over after current students graduate.
“We’ve really reached a point where we feel that it’s very necessary for students to start giving towards this idea of encouraging Baylor’s success in the long run,” Rogers said. “We’re very good at giving of our time and our talents. … But what we’re having trouble with as students is paying additional money than the money that we’re already giving.”
Students attending the town hall submitted questions anonymously to be answered by Davis, Rogers, and professor of business Dr. Mitchell Neubert.
One student asked whether the university would work to develop new undergraduate business programs as part of its strategic plan; another asked whether there would be room for expanded undergraduate studies of terrorism and world religions.
Davis responded by saying that, while the new strategic plan does not dictate specific programs or courses of action, Baylor’s top priority right now is building on its areas of greatest strength, which she said include undergraduate health care, science and engineering programs.
Davis said the draft strategic plan lacks specific metrics and policy goals — instead outlining broader “aspirational statements” — so the university can gather community feedback on all policies individually and avoid being locked into specific courses of action like those proposed in the university’s last strategic plan, Baylor 2012.
“There are some things in the [Baylor] 2012 document that said, ‘We will [do this],’ that six, seven years later didn’t make sense,” Davis said. “And so that’s what we want to avoid. We want to avoid saying that we will do [specific] things when we’re not sure that it’s going to make sense for the university.”
Neubert, who serves as head of the task force responsible for reviewing community feedback on the strategic plan, updated students on what type of feedback Baylor has received so far on the draft plan.
“In this initial wave of feedback,” Neubert said, “what we’re finding is that most of the comments are about things that they really like and find inspiring, which is an affirmation of the things we’re doing. … The other component is … questions about clarity.”
Members of the Baylor community can offer feedback on the plan through March at www.baylor.edu/strategicplan.
The final draft will go public in May, and will replace Baylor 2012 in June as the university’s official strategic plan.