Dear Friend of Welch,
Interacting with Welch students and speaking to them in chapel is a constant, poignant reminder of our mission and purpose, to educate leaders to serve Christ, His church, and His world through biblical thought and life. I see in the eyes of the students with whom our Lord has blessed us a desire to learn how to make a transformative impact on their culture through the gospel of Christ, in the context of their roles as clergy and lay leaders in local churches as well as salt and light in the professional world.
Their desire meshes with the emphasis on spiritual formation that pervades our campus community—a formation that is shaping not only our students’ hearts, but also their intellect and their character. As an alumnus or supporter of Welch, you would be proud of these students, and proud of the faculty who are pouring their lives into these students.
This basic mission has sustained us in good times and bad times, but it is always encouraging when we witness quantitative growth, and that is why I wanted to share a little with you about the enrollment growth we are experiencing at Welch. The occasion for my sharing this information is our annual meeting of TICUA, the Tennessee Independent Colleges and Universities Association.
At that gathering of Tennessee private college leaders, they always share “Characteristics” of member schools. I wanted to share some of that information with you that I think will encourage you about Welch’s growth.
Before I share the enrollment growth statistics, you’ll find it interesting that only six private colleges and universities in Tennessee (20%) have lower tuition than Welch. Our tuition is about $8,000 less than the TICUA average.
However, the statistic that is most encouraging is Welch’s record of enrollment growth in a time when private higher education is largely plateaued or declining. The TICUA data shows that Welch’s FTE (full-time equivalent) enrollment has grown by 36% over the past ten years, as compared with a 9% increase in TICUA schools as a whole.
Even more encouraging is the comparative numbers over the past five years. Welch’s FTE (full-time equivalent) enrollment has grown by 18% over the past five years, as compared with TICUA schools as a whole, whose overall FTE enrollment has dropped by less than 1%. Only one out of the other 33 TICUA institutions had a higher five-year enrollment increase than Welch did.
We are thankful for these trends at a time when traditional, private, residential colleges are having difficulty maintaining enrollments—especially of 18 to 22-year-old dormitory students—in the face of the proliferation of cheap online learning.
But in the midst of this good news, let me raise a concern. Often when colleges are doing well in enrollment growth, alumni and supporters will give less financial support. They think that because things are going so well, the college is less in need of their gifts. Let me encourage you not to think this! While our cash situation is the best it has been since the Great Recession, our financial needs are very great. Not only is depreciation—a non-cash expense— making it very difficult to balance our budget, but we also have a $15 million debt on our new campus that we need your help in retiring. So I urge you to give more than ever before to help Welch get this debt paid down and balance our operational budget.
Most importantly, I ask you to pray for Welch. Pray for our students and the faculty and staff who invest in their lives daily. Pray for prospective students who are considering Welch for their college education. Pray for donors whom we believe God is leading to make a great difference in the future of Welch and its kingdom impact, and pray about what God would have you do to be a part of the ongoing mission of your college.
Sincerely in Christ,