Over the past few months, I’ve been reading various news publications, letters and articles published about Hardin-Simmons University. I am writing to express my understanding of HSU’s situation and to support the administration from an alumni perspective.
Please know, I’m writing this from a place of love for my university and with the hope and anticipation the institution continues for another 100-plus years.
I bleed HSU to my core and would do anything to advance its noble cause. I was the fourth generation in my family on campus, I served as student body president while attending classes and served as a member of the Board of Young Associates after graduating.
In an effort to continue my support for HSU, I recently traveled to campus to visit members of the administration and staff. Below, I’ve outlined four areas that gave me a greater understanding of where we are today and trust in The Way Forward.
Current financial status
Revenue from students, including endowed scholarships, has not equaled the cost of operations in decades. In fact, over the last 50 years, HSU has not had a single decade in which its revenues where larger than its expenses. Today, student revenue is not sufficient to support our university, and we must develop new methods of generating revenue while reducing expenses.
Many have suggested we cut campus programs and sports such as football, track and basketball. However, 42 percent of new students attending HSU are involved in varsity athletics. Since we do not give athletic scholarships, this is a vital part of our revenue stream. This year, HSU sports are on track to produce $8 million in profits. These profits are being used to subsidize academic programs.
As a political science major, I was disappointed to see my degree cut, but I knew it was necessary. HSU has a wide variety of programs that are not generating enough revenue to support their continuation. By consolidating degree programs, our university can begin to improve financially and strengthen programs. Eliminating programs are tough decisions, but I would rather HSU be great in the subjects our current students want than retain programs in which current students do not enroll.
Admittedly, this is the toughest section for me to write. Although I was never a seminary student, I always have believed in advancing our “education enlightened by faith” mission. Logsdon Seminary always has run a significant operating deficit, and HSU will be saving approximately $600,000 annually by closing Logsdon Seminary.
HSU explored options to improve the seminary’s financial results, but no financially viable options came out of those explorations. Moving forward, there are three key factors that aided my eventual acceptance of the seminary’s closure.
1. All current seminary students will be given a reasonable opportunity to finish their degrees.
2. The Logsdon School of Theology will remain active and robust.
3. The HSU administration exhausted all attempts to save the school from closure, including asking the seminary to seek a waiver to allow online degree programs. These attempts simply did not work, and I have peace in knowing the Lord has a different path for HSU.
HSU will continue to serve our mission of educating Christian leaders after Logsdon Seminary is closed. Even before Logsdon Seminary, HSU was a leading Baptist university, and we will be afterward. Claiming HSU no longer will be a Christian-based education after Logsdon is closed is misinformed and not factual.
The Way Forward
The administration has approached this from a position of passion and care for our HSU family. All affected faculty have been given a 12-month notice of changes, and all students will be given a reasonable opportunity to finish their degrees at HSU regardless of their field of study.
It has been tough making cuts and losing faculty and staff to financial hardships. However, these actions will result in $4.2 million in annual savings beginning two years from now, which is vital to our continued operations.
The administration has a plan being executed to generate $8.2 million in savings and produce revenues greater than expenses over the next four years. With sacrifice, change and dedication, we eventually will be able to meet operating expenses and grow our endowment again.
A modern HSU
HSU must keep up with modern academics and teaching styles. The reality is online learning is a vital part of our future, and the longer we deny the positive impact it can have for our university, the longer we will struggle financially.
The university is taking degrees online that give us an ability to grow our student body rapidly, reduce tuition costs and recruit more students. We’ll be able to compete with universities based in larger metropolitan areas and generate additional sources of income.
As a result of these changes, Hardin-Simmons also will be able to modernize its facilities and technologies for an even better on-campus experience.
Finally, I’m proud to be a Hardin-Simmons Cowboy, and I hope other alumni remain proud, as well. We are an alumni base of great individuals who have each sacrificed in our own way to make HSU better.
Although our cause is great, pursuing it is difficult sometimes. We have had times of financial struggle before and persevered each time. It always has been the strong leadership of men and women guiding HSU through these times.
Today, we must accept our university is struggling to adapt in a changing world. We must reduce tuition costs and also recruit students to campus. I believe, we no longer can debate if changes should be made, but how to make needed changes. I know we may not agree on each detail, but I hope you will join me in learning more about our way forward and praying for those our Lord has placed in a position of leadership during this time.
Ash Wright graduated from Hardin Simmons University in 2005 and became the chief political strategist for campaigns in 17 states and Puerto Rico. He lives in Leander, Texas, with his wife and adopted son Nathan. They attend New Hope Baptist Church in Cedar Park, Texas, and serve their community as foster parents.