All Hands speech gives insight to Augsburg’s future

Winston Heckt, Staff Writer

Two weeks ago, Augsburg University President Paul Pribbenow addressed faculty and staff at the All Hands meeting where he discussed a number of topics ranging from the present state of the University to the future challenges.

  The 2,060 undergraduate day students enrolled this fall nearly met the university’s goal, although the number of new undergraduate students was below target. “We came in significantly under goal,” said President Pribbenow.

   Similarly, the number of new adult undergraduates was dramatically lower than anticipated. “We are still struggling to get new adult undergrads,” said Pribbenow, adding, “We did really well on our continuing adult undergrads, and according to the Minnesota Private College Council results, we actually had the largest number of transfer students of any private college in the state.”

   Pribbenow pointed to a change in leadership in admissions last year, an increase in the incoming class at the University of Minnesota and increasing competition between Minnesota’s private colleges as contributors to lower enrollment.

   Continuing the trend of increasing diversity in the student body, the newly enrolled Augsburg class is 57% people of color, up from 51% of last year’s class and 45% of the class before that. Overall, the total number of undergraduate students is on track with previous years.

    “Our traditional undergraduate program has been consistently around 2,000 students over a 10-year period, and I think that’s a pattern we need to plan for going forward.”

   Regardless, lower enrollment spells changes in the University’s budget. A million-dollar decrease in revenue is expected as a result of this year’s enrollment numbers, though Pribbenow remained optimistic. “There’s no doubt that this enrollment shortfall means we’ve had some budget challenges, but at this point we feel like we have all the pieces to solve the problem, so we should see no impact on this academic year,” said Pribbenow. “In fact, we want to be clear that we have not had any change to the budgeted compensation increases or other investments that we’ve made to generate revenue.”

   The University did make expense reductions and deferred some capital expenses planned for this year to next year. “These are things that aren’t going to have a huge impact either to student life or in our daily life that we can put off until next summer or next fall,” said Pribbenow. He also tasked the resource council — a committee of the University council — to take a hard look at the budget to determine what changes can be made to how the university conducts business and to brainstorm new potential revenue sources.

   Shifting gears, Pribbenow briefly teased next year’s sesquicentennial celebration. Next fall marks Augsburg’s 150th anniversary, and the University plans to celebrate the occasion for an entire year, kicking things off on homecoming night. “Faculty and staff are working on special projects, and everyone is very excited,” said Pribbenow.

    To conclude the All Hands meeting, the president touched on Augsburg’s next campus plan, currently titled the Augsburg2025 plan. “We’re going to have a series of events that we’re referring to as ‘commission 150’ that will be happening throughout the year: conversations with alumni, with board members and with friends of the University where we will be engaging folks about shaping the next strategic plan,” said Pribbenow. “We will be taking a draft of this plan to the board at their meeting in May 2019 and then they will approve that plan next fall.”

     As a parting thought, Pribbenow reflected on the success of the previous campus plan. “We have changed our name, we’ve got a new curriculum unfolding, we’ve got a whole new governance structure with the University council; we’ve got an award-winning board of regents, our diversity and equity efforts have been successful and we’ve built the Hagfors Center. That’s what this community accomplished together, and it’s on this foundation now that we get to plan for the next six years and beyond.”

This article first appeared in the Friday, October 12 edition of The Echo.

Photo taken by Kristian Evans. Augsburg University sign outside the chapel.