ROME — Shorter University confirmed its receipt of a Warning from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) this morning, June 13, on basis of financial viability.
In a statement, the Georgia Baptist college admitted that “the ruling was not unexpected given the financial position of the university for a number of years.” The Warning by SACS was based off Shorter’s finances following the 2017-18 fiscal year and, according to the statement, doesn’t reflect steps taken since to shore up the school’s financial stability.
The school also pointed out that the Warning doesn’t affect Shorter’s academic standing, which during the school’s most recent reaffirmation cycle was extended for ten years.
In a letter to employees this afternoon, President Don Dowless said Shorter has been transparent in its finances and, despite rumors, “is in no danger of closing.”
“We have been working diligently to secure our financial base and have made significant progress by reducing overhead, eliminating excessive long-term leases, and by continuing to be good stewards of the resources entrusted to us,” Dowless stated.
Shorter’s president gave thanks for increased giving to the university from the Georgia Baptist Mission Board as well as gifts from “generous” donors and friends.
“We are grateful for their love of the university and confidence in our mission to ‘Transform Lives through Christ,’” he wrote.
Steps for financial viability
The Warning stipulates that Shorter must take intentional steps toward and carefully monitor its financial standing. Among those steps it has taken are:
- For the 2019-2020 fiscal year, the university has presented to the Board of Trustees a balanced budget, developed from a zero-based budgeting perspective.
- As of the fall of 2018, the school is free from all leased properties for the Adult Education Program in Atlanta. Many of the students participating in that program have transitioned to Shorter’s online program. The one remaining long-term leased property, located in Rome, will expire in 2021 and “considerable improve” Shorter’s financial standing.
- As contracts have expired in certain areas (such as food and cleaning services), the university has moved contracted auxiliary services in-house with better oversight and at a significantly reduced cost.
- Right-sizing of staff positions (in accord with academic institutions of similar enrollment) has already taken place, as the on-ground adult education program has been phased out in the Atlanta area.
- The ongoing academic program review continues to evaluate the creation of new degrees, majors, minors, or concentrations and the updating of established programs; also, academic majors that have proven less attractive for students have been either reduced to minors or eliminated.
- New sources of revenue continue to develop through summer camps, new recruiting initiatives, and increased fund-raising efforts: Lifeway camps continue to be a source of summer revenue and international recruiting looks “very promising” in both the near and extended future. Fundraising has increased over the last several months, including substantial gifts allowing the university to renovate three science labs and a studio theatre. Moreover, a recent $100,000 grant has helped upgrade the Nursing simulation equipment to support Shorter’s Nursing program, which ranks number six in the state of Georgia.
“As a university we are grateful to have an accrediting body that holds its member institutions to the highest standards, and we embrace the opportunity to evaluate problematic areas, renew our commitment to excellence in all phases of university life, and move forward in an effort to make Shorter the best possible academic institution,” said the statement.
Dowless kept an eye toward Shorter’s future even while assessing its present.
“We look forward to celebrating our 150th anniversary in 2023 and are making plans to move forward confidently with an eye on the future,” he said. “We are very optimistic about what God has in store for Shorter University.”