Strategic Planning Town Hall

Good morning! And thanks for coming. I’m excited about our Strategic Planning process, and all the good work and progress you’ve just heard about. I am confident that we can create a bright future for Bellarmine, but we know for sure that we will be navigating a very competitive and challenging landscape.

Please let me begin by thanking you for your work throughout the year. I want to update you on today’s situation at Bellarmine, with respect to enrollment, fund-raising, the budget, and other issues.


We budgeted for an entering freshman class of 680 for fall 2018.

As of noon yesterday we had confirmed 627. Decision Day is May 1.

We are still receiving confirmation deposits every day, and we know that this year, high school seniors appear to be delaying their decisions until the last minute.

We are in constant contact with all the students in our admitted pool.

We are sending e-mails to parents and students about our graduates’ success with job placement, high starting salary and our guarantees.

We have a digital “confirm now” campaign for admitted students.

I sent a personal letter to 300 top admits.

And our student ambassadors, faculty and staff are calling this week.

So we are working hard to land this class.

Even with our generous institutional aid, cost is the No. 1 reason many prospective students and their families decide not to come to Bellarmine. We have had over 100 financial aid appointments so far this cycle as compared to 77 total last year.

Enrollment in our graduate and second-degree programs with summer starts is looking great. Recruiting for all our graduate and second-degree programs proceeds apace -- and our next on-campus information session is tonight (Thursday April 26) at 6 p.m.


So far we have 57 admitted transfers for next fall. That compares with 51 at this time last year. And we see an opportunity to make headway with transfer students in recruiting and retention. The “Operation Transfer” task force has been meeting and taking short term action while also creating a comprehensive long term plan. We are launching a pilot program that centralizes credit-transfer decisions and we will maximize credit and support to reduce time to degree completion.

We will offer prospective transfer students:

  • A rapid turnaround on credit transfer decisions.
  • Centralizing the decision-making process for transcript review.
  • Customized affordability plans.
  • And one-on-one advising from orientation to graduation to improve retention.

We will begin targeted digital ad campaigns soon to get the word out about transferring to Bellarmine.  

New Markets

We are recruiting members of the U.S. military and veterans. And Bellarmine University’s support for U.S. service members doesn’t end at enrollment. The Office of Military and Veteran Student Services maintains a lounge and study area in the W. L. Lyons Brown Library exclusively for active duty and veteran personnel, along with students who are dependents of a veteran.

In addition, Bellarmine has been invited to join other American universities in a partnership with the newly created American Universities Saudi Center in Delaware and the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education that will streamline the enrollment of Saudi students here.

Already we have 12 Saudi students at Bellarmine and may have six more – and then at least 10 per year if we become a part of the program.


It has been a record year for fund-raising at Bellarmine.

As of March 31 we had new gifts and commitments totaling $8.6 million (vs. $3.7 million last year). Our cash received is $11.3M which is a record high due to the large gifts and the end of the campaign.

And Bellarmine’s fifth annual online Day of Giving set three new records, thanks to gifts from Bellarmine graduates, faculty, staff, students, parents and friends. The 24-hour campaign, from noon on April 10 to noon on April 11, generated $306,751.82 through 639 gifts from 47 states. The campaign raised contributions for Bellarmine’s annual fund, which provides vital support for student aid and other pressing university needs. The Day of Giving was kicked off by our faculty and staff community campaign – and let me just say that the level of support at Bellarmine from all of you is absolutely fantastic, and I can’t thank you enough for that!


Despite the uncertainty over how our revenue projections will turn out, we are working on the 2018-2019 budget.

Right now the three most significant changes in the budget are:

  • $250,000 Decrease in university portion of health Insurance cost
  • $220,000 Increase in Endowment Income from the $5M gift
  • $200,000 Decrease in Capital Budget due to gift for the replacement of the stadium turf field.

The projected positive change in the bottom line due to these three items equals an estimated $670,000.

We anticipate the sale of Glenview will close this month and the proceeds will be used to pay down the internal debt from construction of classrooms in Allen Hall.

In addition, I have eliminated 7 full time and 3 part time staff positions for an annual savings of $759,000. This money is already figured into the preliminary budget.

We also have some challenges to overcome.

Our discount rate to land the class that entered in fall 2017 was 62.6 percent.

We had hoped to reduce that this year, but all indications are that it will take a discount rate of 64 percent to land this incoming class in fall 2018.

This translates into an increase in institutional aid of more than a million dollars.

Meanwhile we are still tracking through the smaller class that entered in 2016, did not retain well, and will be juniors this coming year.

How competitive is the college choice environment? Let me give you an example. One student in our admitted pool has a 28 ACT and a 3.1 GPA. His family’s government-determined “Expected Family Contribution” to his college education is more than $52,000. He wanted to come to Bellarmine. We wanted to welcome him into this class. So, we gave him institutional aid of $28,500, which for him is a discount rate of 68.8% off the “sticker price.” With that his family would pay $20,830 for tuition, room and board here. He was excited to come to Bellarmine! But his parents sent him to Ball State because that university was only charging him $11,808. They sent him to a state school because it costs $9,000 less. The competition for good students is fierce, and it’s often about money.

All of this is emblematic of how competitive our environment is, and that our current business model is not sustainable. We will keep a close eye on our projections and on the emerging realities, and we will adjust the budget as necessary.

Watterson Medical Center

I want to speak briefly about the university’s purchase of the Watterson Medical Center. Normally I would have been more transparent about it – that is my preference – but in this case we had to sign a strict confidentiality agreement as part of our first right of refusal to purchase the property.

In any case, this investment is important for Bellarmine.

The Watterson Medical Center is an 80,000-square-foot health care facility at 3430 Newburg Road. The purchase was made possible by the anonymous $5 million gift for this purpose. In all, Bellarmine’s endowment fund will pay a total of about $11 million for the building and the surrounding land.

The building's current tenants include a Veterans Administration Healthcare Center offering primary care, a women's health clinic and a geriatric clinic. Other tenants include Frazier Rehab, U.S. HealthWorks (occupational medicine), Rheumatology Associates and Chest Medicine Associates.

The revenue provided through the leases will generate significant revenue that will support both the university operating budget and the endowment.

In addition, partnerships with tenants may offer opportunities to enhance our programs in physical therapy, nursing, health services, exercise science and athletic training – and to expand student internships, service learning and community service opportunities. Our College of Health Professions will explore the possibilities.

Engagement in the Louisville community, providing excellent academic programs, and responding to the needs of society speak to Bellarmine’s founding and character. Being a good neighbor to those in need is fundamental to the Bellarmine mission.

This 7.3 acre property adjoins the 11 acres we purchased for a sports park in 2015. That property includes a practice facility for Bellarmine’s wrestling team, along with outdoor athletic fields for practice and intramural sports. Fun Fact: the medical center parcel includes a lot of parking.

McGowan Hall Dedication

Finally, we had a wonderful dedication of McGowan Hall, and a reception for Maureen, Matt and Joe McGowan and other members of the McGowan clan. We were happy to welcome them home to Bellarmine and I am sure the event meant a lot to them.

Are there questions?