Baylor pleased with progress made on 10-year benchmarks
By Daniel C. Houston
In the 10 years since the university adopted an ambitious new vision outlined in the “Baylor 2012” initiative, the university’s new capital investments in research and residential facilities have coincided with consistent annual increases in the cost of a Baylor education.
The university, upon adopting the strategic plan in 2002, sought to decrease overall class sizes, increase on-campus residential capacity, hire more Christian faculty with expertise in research, build new academic and research facilities, and raise more money for endowed student scholarships.
University spokesperson Lori Fogleman, director of media communications, told the Lariat moving toward these goals has contributed to a gradual increase in the number of high-school students applying to study at Baylor. That number — 7,431 in 2002 when Baylor 2012 went into effect — has already exceeded 40,000 for next year’s class as applications continue to come in, the admissions department reported last week.
“While we made a concentrated effort over the past 10 years to strengthen our faith commitment,” Fogleman said, “we also increased our research productivity by bringing in more outstanding scholar-teachers who value the classroom experience but also believe in involving undergraduate and graduate students in their research.”
Although Baylor fell short of meeting several of the specific benchmarks set 10 years ago, the university managed to move closer to its goals in many measurable areas, according to statistics provided in Baylor’s 2011 annual report on the strategic plan.
As part of Baylor 2012, administrators published specific metrics they hoped to reach by the end of the decade. These metric goals included lowering the number of students per faculty member from 18 to 13; raising the ratio of students living on campus from 29 to 50 percent; and more than tripling the endowment from $561.8 million to $2 billion.
By 2011, Baylor’s student-faculty ratio had dropped to 14.5-to-1, 38 percent of the student body lived on campus and the endowment reached slightly more than $1 billion.
Dr. Reagan Ramsower, vice president for finance and administration, said Baylor’s endowment growth efforts experienced a major setback during the 2008 U.S. financial crisis, during which it was realized many of Baylor’s investments were overvalued.
“In the fall of 2008 … we saw some of the [endowment] appreciation that we had been able to develop in the previous years evaporated,” Ramsower said. “We had had a lot of gains from 2000 forward, and some of those gains were unrealized gains and some of those gains were no longer there.”
Taken as a whole, however, Ramsower said Baylor’s investment strategy in the 2000s was much sounder than in the 1990s, during which time the independent organization, Baptist Foundation of Texas, managed the endowment. Ramsower said Baylor moved management of its endowment in-house in 2000 after assessing returns in the 1990s were lower than they could have been.
“The office of investments was created to rectify that situation, and allowed the endowment to be managed across a broader set of asset classes to take advantage of all the potential for maximizing return while minimizing risk,” Ramsower said. “In that respect, the office of investments has been extremely successful.”
Meanwhile, student costs in the past decade rose steeply, according to Baylor’s Office of Institutional Research and Testing. Between 2002 and 2011, undergraduate tuition increased by 82.9 percent, while housing costs rose by 72.9 percent and meal plan prices by 32.1 percent. By 2011, the combined cost of tuition, room and board had jumped from $21,414 in 2002 to $37,383 per year.
During that time, university administrators also oversaw construction of the North Village, Brooks College and Brooks Flats residential facilities, as well as three parking garages and planning for the East Village Residential Community. Construction on East Village began this year.
In line with Baylor 2012’s emphasis on research, the university also approved the construction of two major science facilities: the Baylor Sciences Building, dedicated in 2004, and the Baylor Research and Innovation Collaborative (BRIC) facility, which is currently under construction.
Dr. Truell Hyde, vice provost for research, said the investment in research resulting from Baylor 2012 will increase recognition of Baylor’s faculty and students and encourage graduate schools to value a Baylor degree more.
“Baylor has been historically known as a university that produces extraordinary graduates,” Hyde said. “These days, it’s become more and more competitive to get into the best medical schools and graduate schools. In many fields, undergraduate scholarship or research is required for a student to be accepted into the best medical schools or graduate schools.”
University administrators appear poised to reaffirm the core direction of Baylor 2012 when Dr. Elizabeth Davis, executive vice president and provost, presents the new draft strategic plan to the board of regents for approval in May.
While lacking specific benchmarks characteristic of Baylor 2012, the draft strategic plan reaffirms Baylor’s commitment to “enter the top tier of American research universities while deepening our Christian commitment,” leaving specific plans of action unspecified for future deliberation.
Dr. Robert Sloan, president of Houston Baptist University and former Baylor president during the proposal and initial implementation of Baylor 2012, declined to comment to the Lariat for this story.