Toward a Sustainable Model of Jesuit Higher Education in America
Many universities have embraced the environmental sustainability movement, both inside and outside of the university. At the same time, many small, private universities face existential threats to their economic sustainability. A number of American Jesuit colleges find themselves in an uncomfortable financial niche of high tuition, high discounts, small endowments and lower selectivity and enrollment yield rates. While the primary focus on sustainability in Jesuit universities has been on the natural environment, financial considerations also remain of paramount concern for the sustainability of the university. There are also political and cultural threats to the academic environment of the campus, with institutional racism, sexual assaults and harassment, free speech and academic freedom. American Jesuit universities, by their history, mission, nature and resources, are particularly threatened by significant demographic, secular, financial and economic factors that have created a perfect storm of challenges for traditional, liberal arts universities, a category that describes most American Jesuit colleges. A recent meeting of the Council of Independent College presidents highlighted many of these challenges. Boards of Trustees are growing increasingly concerned as to the financial viability of these financially challenged or threatened institutions. Will more Jesuit institutions merge, flounder, or cease to exist? Can Jesuit universities make their programs both affordable and sustainable? Can a decline of Jesuit university business education enrollments cause the b-school cash cow to go dry? Can Jesuit colleges continue to increase the educational debt levels of their graduates? This presentation will look at key issues and present some possible strategies for the long-term sustainability of American Jesuit universities and attempt to engage the audience in efforts to generate sustainable strategies for Jesuit higher education.