Regents set tuition, introduce new program at most recent meeting

The Baylor University Board of Regents approved numerous initiatives at last month’s board meeting. Among other proposals, the board approved a new joint-degree program to be offered at George W. Truett Theological Seminary, set undergraduate tuition for the 2017-2018 academic year with the lowest percentage increase in over 20 years and approved plans to move the university forward in the aftermath of an investigation by Pepper Hamilton LLC into the mishandling of the sexual assault cases by the university.

Both Baylor administration and the Board of Regents are taking steps to facilitate changes based on the recommendations from Pepper Hamilton that aim to prove beneficial for the student body. The recommendations follow a year-long external investigation into the university’s mishandlings of sexual assault cases.

“The Task Forces have been steadily making progress on the recommendations we have adopted as mandates. Their work is moving forward on all fronts,” Baylor University Interim President David Garland said in a press release.

The board also approved the creation of a new Executive Committee to help improve board effectiveness by clearly marking communication responsibilities, becoming more efficient in its oversight responsibilities and allowing more frequent interaction between university management and the board.

At its most recent meeting, the Board of Regents also approved $2 million to improve technology infrastructure and electrical utilities along Seventh Street.

“The university experienced some power outages last year that stemmed from issues with the above-ground power lines on Seventh and Eighth streets. We will be taking down the utility poles and burying those lines,” said Lori Fogleman, assistant vice president for media relations.

Fogleman said from a campus standpoint, it is more about aesthetics, meaning there will be no more utility poles up and down Seventh and Eighth streets. From a facilities and operations standpoint, this project will provide the campus with a much more reliable utility service.

The board also approved a new Master of Divinity and Master of Science in Education/Master of Arts joint-degree program. This new four-year program will link the resources, classes and personnel of the School of Education and Truett Seminary.

“It is important to have a religious education concentration within the seminary because churches are in need of education ministers,” said Dr. Todd Still, dean of George W. Truett Theological Seminary. “The reason that it is important to have a religious education emphasis within the School of Education linked with a divinity degree is because you have graduates that are going to private and parochial schools, many of whom have a religious identity. With this joint-degree, you will now have students that will be prepared for these career tracks, whether in the church or alongside the church.”

Truett used to have a concentration in religious education, but it is no longer offered. The School of Education once had courses in religious education, but the response to these courses was not sufficient to gain traction in past years.

“We looked within our divisions and asked the question, ‘What are the needs of the congregations and schools that we are seeking to serve?’ As we did that, this joint-degree gained traction,” Still said.

At its most recent meeting, the Baylor University Board of Regents also voted to increase the tuition for the fall 2017 and spring 2018 school year at the lowest percentage in over 20 years – 4.25 percent.

“The board is fervently committed to nurturing an environment where academic rigor, spiritual life and character formation can flourish, but also one that provides access and affordability for families and their students who dream of pursuing a high-quality and distinctive Baylor degree,” Ronald D. Murff, chair of the Board of Regents, said in a press release. “The University is providing more financial assistance to students than at any other time in our history, and we are working hard to attract, retain and graduate young people who are guided by their faith and strengthened by their Baylor education to make a difference in our diverse world as global citizens and leaders.”