MAGIS: More. Together.

Excerpts from the State of the University Address Dr. Steven Titus, President. On August 23, 2018, President Titus presented the following State of the University Address during Iowa Wesleyan’s Opening Convocation and the start of a new academic year. Excerpts are included in this article of the address entitled: MAGIS: More. Together.

It is customary at the start of each academic year that the president gathers with the community to deliver the State of the University Address. The State of the University Address is a brief pause to assess the general welfare of the university and to animate the year ahead.

Last year, we reflected on the extraordinary state of momentum the University was experiencing. That momentum continues as we grow in enrollment, programs and reputation.

We acknowledged our vulnerability and financial challenges that accompany such turnarounds.

However, to appreciate and apprehend the current state of the university, it is important to understand the state of higher education across the country and IW’s place within that general context.

The higher education environment is hypercompetitive. According to Teresa Sullivan, the recently retired president of the University of Virginia, my alma mater, “universities that are timid in the face of change will wither and die.” What are some of the changes she’s referencing?

Our challenge:

  • This past December, Moody’s Investor Service downgraded the higher education sector from stable to negative. They report that there are, on average, 11 private college closures per year and the number is estimated to rise to 15 per year. Last year there were 33 private college closures.
    The higher education market has contracted 12% since 2011.
  • Only 34% of college and universities met their enrollment goals in fall 2017. IW was among the 34%.
  • Total national student debt is double the total national credit card debt.
    75% of students will attend two or more institutions before they graduate, challenging retention and persistence efforts.
  • 34% of higher education enrollment is online and that percentage will continue to increase. IW is prepared and positioned to respond to this trend.
  • The adult degree completion market is now larger than the traditional age high school market. IW is prepared and positioned to respond to this trend.
  • Certificates and “stackable credentials” are becoming mainstream. IW is prepared and positioned to respond to this trend.
  • Tuition discounting continues to increase at alarming and unsustainable levels. IW is experiencing this trend.
  • Just two years ago, one third of small private colleges experienced operating deficits, an increase of 20% over three years. IW is among this group of small private colleges.

You get the picture. It is tough times for most colleges and universities and there appears to be no relief in sight.

However, despite these alarming realities, IW continues to grow. Enrollment is up a fourth year in a row, retention is at an all-time high, and housing is exceeding capacity.

I am pleased to announce the establishment of the National Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion at Iowa Wesleyan University. Our University is rapidly growing more and more diverse. Our diversity is one of our greatest gifts as a community of learners. It is imperative that we honor that gift through dialogue, engagement, dignity, respect and action. The National Advisory Board for Diversity and Inclusion will advance and deepen our work to honor this gift in intentional ways.

I believe Teresa Sullivan was right when she said we are in a hypercompetitive environment. Though I can assure you that Iowa Wesleyan University is neither timid nor withering.

Like many universities, our financial challenges are real. We have and will continue to address those challenges. The Business Model Task Force is examining how Iowa Wesleyan can sustain and thrive in this hypercompetitive environment. While enrollment is up, revenues are flat because of escalating discount rates and alarmingly low estimated family contribution rates related to student financial aid. The launch of IW Online is a critical step forward to sustainability. The Business Model Task Force will continue throughout the year to explore a host of matters, to include identifying and committing to an optimal enrollment size for the traditional undergraduate experience at Iowa Wesleyan.

This year’s State of the University Address is entitled Magis: More. Together. Magis is a Latin word that means “more” or “greater”. Magis is an ideal that both permeates and animates some of the finest universities in the country. It is a restless ideal. Magis is restless because it is an expression of both aspiration and inspiration. It is an ideal that calls us forth to a deeper and fuller life in God and in service of one another. Magis compels us to more, constantly driving us to discover, to imagine, to desire deeply, and to reach out for more. Magis is a “Holy Boldness”, a way of proceeding in the world. It invites us to acknowledge and act upon our deepest desires for change, growth, and for a fuller life – as individuals and as a university community, because our deepest desires are what lead us to become who we are and who we are meant to be.

This is a courageous and passionate community. Together, so much has been accomplished and achieved. You are to be commended and appreciated for it all. And yet, we must constantly drive to discover more, to imagine more, to desire more, to risk more. An even deeper, fuller and prosperous institutional life is beckoning, but it will require our ongoing, wholehearted and collective “yes” to the Magis, “yes” to our more.

Our Success

  • received full membership into the NCAA;
  • the Higher Learning Commission, our regional accrediting body, reaffirmed the University’s accreditation for another
    10 years;
  • received HLC approval of our second master’s degree;
    expanded our housing facilities to create an even more dynamic on-campus student experience;
  • launched a new bachelor’s degree program in social work to help address the mental health crisis in our region;
  • formed a Board of Trustees led task force to examine the University’s overall business model;
  • branded and launched IW Online to significantly scale up our online programming and capacity;
  • launched the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning;
    realigned and integrated Intercollegiate Athletics within enrollment management;
  • and reorganized the university under a new Provost model that integrates and makes more seamless the curricular and co-curricular student learning experience.
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