A C I F I C L U T H E R A N U N I V E R S
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An impact beyond PLU: President
Anderson discusses the future of higher education
PASSING THE GAVEL: At NAICU’s
25th Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C., outgoing NAICU
Board Chair William Troutt, President of Rhodes College
(right), hands the gavel to PLU President Loren Anderson.
College population growth. Tuition.
The economy. The relationship with the community. The dilemmas
Loren J. Anderson faces as a university president are not exclusive
to PLU, and he knows it. In the middle of a one-year term as chairman
of the board for the National Association of Independent Colleges
and Universities, Anderson is primed to make an impact that stretches
to academic institutions across the county. In that role, he has
been actively lobbying national lawmakers and serving as spokesman
for the nation’s 950 independent colleges and universities. Last
month Anderson spoke with Scene about some of the key issues in
SCENE: Demographers predict
a 20 percent increase in the nation’s college-age population over
the next 10 years, with more high school students than ever applying
to college. What effect will this have on these students? Will
it be more difficult to gain admission to good colleges and universities?
What should students in the 9th or 10th grade be doing now to
ANDERSON: Students over the
next 10 years will find ample places to go and rich opportunities
for study. Higher education as an industry is overbuilt today
and has the capacity to serve more people than we are currently
The admissions sorting out process
among institutions is a complex one. There are certain institutions
for which the demand will be even greater. But there are many
institutions that will continue to work hard to attract top quality
students. Students of good ability will have ample opportunity
Students considering college should
be preparing themselves in the basic skill areas with the broadest
possible curriculum through the high school years—demonstrating
that they have learned, and more importantly learned how to learn.
SCENE: Are independent colleges
and universities affordable for the average family? We hear a
lot about tuition outpacing the consumer price index. Why is that?
Do many students receive financial aid?
ANDERSON: The financing of
higher education is a major issue for families. It’s true at both
public and independent institutions. If you look at the national
statistics, the average family incomes of students attending independent
colleges are modest. Nevertheless, independent colleges and universities
are more affordable than ever. Indeed, financial aid is available
to 80 to 90 percent to students at a given institution—funded
by the institution, by the state and by the federal government.
Yes, tuition increases have, over
the long term, run 1 or 2 percent above the consumer price index—in
part due to the combination of costs faced by higher education.
For example, right now we are facing energy costs, fringe benefit
costs and technology costs that are all moving at a pace significantly
above the consumer price index and all are a significantly larger
percentage of institutional budgets than they are of the CPI formula.
SCENE: The stock market boomed
and then crashed over the past year. What has this meant for college
and university endowment funds? Has support from donors been affected?
ANDERSON: Colleges and universities
like individuals enjoyed incredible investment experi-ences in
the ’90s. The result was huge increases—particularly for the largest
endowment funds—and significant increases for all endowment funds.
At PLU between 1995 and 1999 we averaged
19.5 percent compounded annually on our endowment—just a tremendous
track record. In the year 2000, we returned 4.6 percent. This
year that experience is even less positive, and that is typical
of schools across the country. It hasn’t meant an immediate reduction
in endowment income but clearly over time it means less income
from the endowment to help with operations.
The stock market downturn has also
meant that donors are naturally cautious and in many cases are
simply deferring decisions to support higher education institutions.
This has been true here at PLU and across the country.
SCENE: PLU seems to have built a
strong relationship with Tacoma and the Pierce County community.
Is that something that the university has deliberately encouraged?
Why? Do most colleges and universities make that commitment?
ANDERSON: For Pacific Lutheran University
the matter of reaching out to the broader community comes quite
naturally. It flows from our mission as a Lutheran institution
and our educational philosophy as a New American College. Our
notion of education, taken from Dewey, is that the best learning
is both theoretical and applied. Our Lutheran theology of education
says that we are ultimately responsible to lend a hand and to
make the world a better place. So both our educational and our
theological impulse says we need to be an active, contributing,
and positive member of our surrounding community.
SCENE: What other issues central
to independent colleges and universities have you been addressing?
ANDERSON: We have been struck by
the public’s lack of understanding of the difference between public
and independent higher education. Several recent national surveys
show that people really don’t perceive a significant difference
between public and private higher education. They don’t perceive
the difference in terms of quality of instruction, personal interaction,
opportunities for mentorship—all characteristics of the independent
sector and not of the public sector.
So, one of the emerging issues for
NAICU and other national affiliations of independent colleges
and universities is to try to figure out how we do a better job
of communicating that message.
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