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Private Colleges Face Economic Challenges

February 13, 2009, 5:55 PM by Perry Groten

Private Colleges Face Economic Challenges
The University of Sioux Falls is not alone among private schools coping with a rough economy. However, administrators at Augustana College do not foresee job layoffs, or wage reductions, as part of their efforts to deal with a tight budget. 

Like USF, Augustana College has seen a shortfall in its endowment fund. But the college expects to make it through the school year and beyond with gains in other areas, like enrollment and donations. 

Augustana's economic lifeblood flows through its endowment fund, plus other alumni gifts as well as tuition payments and research grants. But the school's endowment took a hit in the financial markets last year, prompting the college to urge belt-tightening among the faculty and staff. 

"We're basically telling people to hold-the-line on expenses and to manage through that way," Vice-President of Finance Tom Meyer said.

According to Meyer, that holding-the-line approach does not include layoffs at the college. 

"We don't have any planned, we don't have anything that we've talked about," Meyer said. 

A $6 million anonymous donation paid for the school's newly-renovated library. But Meyer says future construction projects on campus could slow down because of the economy. Still, people are backing the school; financial gifts from alumni are up slightly. 

"I think that's just a tribute to the supporters and donors of Augustana College and the community.  They have helped us fulfill our mission," Meyer said. 

Meyer is encouraged that enrollment this year is higher than expected. Plus, there's a five percent increase in student applications for next year. 

Meyer adds that there are no plans to cut back on scholarships for students. But he says a hike in tuition is likely. Any final decisions are expected to be in place by July.

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