Covenant’s enrollment is lower than expected for the second year in a row. As a result, Covenant’s budget required strategic re-evaluating. Covenant is tuition dependent, which means that 87% of the college’s revenue is from tuition, room, and board.
In order to make up for this deficit from lower enrollment, the budget cut included eliminating 8 staff positions. Enrollment of new students for this fall is currently about 294 students and is almost the same as last year. But what does the budget look like for this year?
Dan Wykoff, vice president for finance and operations and CFO at Covenant, explains that the budget will not have a significant change from last year. Wykoff says that the college is working hard to “spend strategically” in order to maintain the budget. As of now, the budget is in the process of being finalized and will not be complete until the end of September. This is when there will be a final number of total enrolled students.
Last year’s financial plan included cutting the budget for Covenant’s athletic department. Although student enrollment decreased, the amount of student athletes did not. Forty percent of new students are athletes and thirty-three percent of returning students are athletes as well.
The budget for the 2016-2017 school year was adjusted in order to add more to the athletic department budget. With this money, Covenant added a Track and Field team, but also discontinued the women’s golf team. Wykoff explains this as part of “spending strategically.”
Even though there were many staff cuts last year, Dr. Rush was added to the growing economics department and Dr. Heath Garris was hired as the new Biology professor. A grounds keeper was also hired to care for Covenant’s 400-plus acres, which now includes Grace Presbyterian Church’s 8 acres that was recently given to the college. The safety and security budget was also increased.
The target goal of new students, whether it be freshmen or transfers, entering in the Fall of 2016 is about 310 students. Although 294 is only a sixteen student difference, it makes a significant difference on a tuition dependent budget.
A new application process has been forced in attempt to increase the number of prospective students to start and finish their application. This past summer, the technology department built an online application portal for students to apply to the college rather than having to snail mail every part of the application to the college. The online portal is currently open to students applying for admittance in the Fall of 2017.
During Spring semester, Covenant hosts a scholarship weekend for prospective students to come and compete for scholarships. In order to try and increase the new student enrollment in the Fall, Covenant will now be hosting two scholarship weekends throughout the year.
Scott Schindler, director of admissions, explains that with two scholarship weekends, the window for applying and competing for scholarships will be bigger as competitive scholarship opportunities has increased.
The goal is to have more admitted students come and compete for scholarships and open up more opportunities for these prospective students.
In an attempt to increase enrollment and avoid future budget cuts, Wykoff says that there will be more focus on marketing for the college. Marketing includes the communication of what Covenant College is all about and the “story” the college wants to tell. This year, two members were added to the Advancement Team to help fundraise for Covenant. Covenant will continue to work hard at increasing enrollment so no further budget cuts will have to be made.