Erskine trustees approved a revised two-year plan to address financial concerns at their meetings Thursday and Friday, Oct. 16 and 17, which coincided with celebrations of Erskine’s 175th anniversary. The board had passed a three-year financial plan in August. That plan was then revised based on the recommendation of a committee from SACSCOC, the school’s regional accreditor, which visited campus in September.
“The SACS committee advised taking a more aggressive timeline with several parts of our original plan,” said Erskine President Dr. Paul Kooistra. “I believe this revised plan is even stronger than the original in helping us move toward long-term financial stability.”
The revised financial plan retains a focus on taking near-term actions to achieve long-term stability and sustainability. The plan as revised includes:
- A reduction in total draws from the endowment to 7 percent in 2014-15, then 5 percent in 2015-16;
- A reduction in operational personnel and program expenses by $1.5 million in 2014-15;
- A 3.79 percent increase in tuition, fees, room, and board in 2015-16;
- An annual fund goal of $1.6 million in unrestricted donations.
The revised plan also seeks to find additional savings of about $500,000 by recalculating the amount of depreciation expense the budget must account for. Depreciation allocates a portion of the cost of the physical plant as a non-cash expense in the budget.
“We plan to conduct a detailed review of the physical plant and revise the estimated useful service period of our assets to determine the actual depreciation we need to include,” said Greg Haselden, Erskine’s senior vice president for finance and operations.
In August, Kooistra had planned to make decisions regarding affected programs and personnel by Oct. 1. However, revising the plan adjusted that timeframe. He now plans to communicate with Erskine faculty and staff about those specific parts of the plan by Dec. 1.
“We are doing everything we possibly can to minimize the impact of these actions on individual faculty and staff members and their families,” Kooistra said. “We also want to ensure that our students continue to enjoy a quality Erskine experience in any affected areas.”
In addition to addressing financial matters, trustees also passed a motion reaffirming the seats held by the president of the Erskine Alumni Association and the moderator of the ARP Synod:
In the pursuit of unity and in celebration of our 175th year, the Board of Trustees of Erskine College & Theological Seminary, in its October 2014 meeting, reaffirms the ex-officio role and responsibilities of the president of the Erskine Alumni Association and the moderator of the ARP Church. We prayerfully look forward to God’s continued blessings upon the Erskine family and ask the Lord to grant a spirit of love without compromise among all the members that they might together lead Erskine through the difficulties and challenges she faces at this time.
The phrase “love without compromise” in the motion mirrors wording Kooistra used in his devotional that opened the meetings on Thursday. Kooistra’s devotional, based on Matthew 4:17, focused on what he called “perhaps the shortest sermon Jesus ever preached: ‘Repent, for the kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’”
Kooistra emphasized that the idea of repentance is more than simply turning away from wrongdoing. “An encounter with Jesus radically reorients everything,” he said. “Repentance is more than an action. It’s also a posture. A way of life.”
In applying this concept to work of the board, Kooistra said, “We will not always agree with one another on this board, or with others in the Erskine family. We may have to disagree about very important things we cannot compromise on. But how we deal with differences and divisions is just as important. We can’t battle like the world. We have to speak and act in love. Love without compromise.”
Members of the board also heard on Thursday from several students, staff, and current parents who shared their Erskine experiences.