By Samantha Adams, Staff Writer
The U.S. Department of Education has turned a spotlight on private nonprofit and proprietary schools each year since 2008 to reveal their financial responsibility, and Union was given a positive score in the most recent report.
The 2011 financial responsibility report, for the 2009–10 fiscal year, has not been re¬leased yet, but Union was given a positive score on the previous year’s report, which analyzed the 2008–2009 fiscal year.
The Higher Education Act of 1965 requires a financial responsibility report for private institutions. The test scores each institution between a 1.0 and 3.0 based on a composite of three ratios: a primary re¬serve ratio, an equity ratio and a net income ratio, the Federal Student Aid website said.
“These are very challenging times for private higher education in general,” said Dr. David S. Dockery, university president. “The Department of Education has given this matter high visibility by establishing a list each year of private institutions facing difficulty.”
Despite the economic challenges that have hit West Tennessee and the rest of the U.S., Union has continued to make progress, Dockery said.
The university’s net assets increased by about $1.6 million this past year, he said. The university’s operating budget has increased each year over the past 15 years, expanding during that period from about $18 million to this year’s current bud¬get of $88 million. During this same period, the university’s net assets have increased from about $36 million 15 years ago to their current state, which is more than $105 million.
“The budget managers across the university are extremely responsible and conscientious, ensuring positive oversight for the operations of the university,” Dockery said. “We must not fail to recognize that God has been providentially gracious to us and granted us favor during this time.”
Union is not exempt, however, from fiscal challenges. Dockery predicted that while the donor base will remain faithful, economic uncertainty will cause some donors to be cautious. This, however, should not affect students, he said.
“It might mean that we have to be a bit more patient in initi¬ating new projects or programs, but I do not think that students will be directly affected in any obvious way,” Dockery said.
Union will receive less monetary support from the Tennessee Baptist Convention, as well. While the TBC continues to support Union’s mission, it has not increased its giving the past several years. As result, TBC’s support has become a smaller percentage of the budget each year, Dockery said.
“All of this means that Union will have to work harder each year to be a faithful steward of the resources that we have been given, to ensure we live within our means, while planning and managing wisely,” he said.